Three Rivers Police Department adds mobile crisis clinician

Bryann Books

The Three Rivers City Commission heard a presentation Tuesday evening from Three Rivers Police Department (TRPD) Police Chief Scott Boling regarding a new partnership between the TRPD and Pivotal St. Joe.

Bryann Books is a full-time Pivotal social worker who has recently been added to the department as the “Mobile Crisis Clinician – TRPD Liaison,” and will assist officers with individuals experiencing mental health crises in the community. 

Boling began the presentation by telling commissioners the TRPD has entered into an agreement with Pivotal and now has a worker assigned to the department. “From the initial couple of weeks that we’ve been doing it, it’s been extremely successful, and I think it’s going to have a great impact on the city,” he said.

At-Large Commissioner Torrey Brown asked if this position was developed to help with those experiencing homelessness in the community. “That’s one of the things, but she (Books) deals with mental health and she deals with community issues and providing services to people in the community,” Boling said. “She’s kind of our gateway because she has a lot more knowledge of the resources and connections than the actual police department does. This is an agreement to form that bridge, and to work together to solve problems long-term.”

Books is a fully licensed Master’s Level social worker, and has been practicing for nearly five years. She works through Pivotal in St. Joseph County, and has now been stationed with the TRPD for the past three weeks. She told commissioners in her presentation following Boling’s remarks that it has been a “whirlwind” of trying to learn and know the ins and outs of the community.

According to Books, the “out-of-the-gate” vision for her position is to initially look at cost-saving measures for inpatient hospital diversions. “To break it down, we’re looking at about $1,000 per day for inpatient care, which is a lot but I’m sure many of you know that the cost of hospitalizations tends to be quite high, and it’s likely far more than that but we are going to use that as a baseline measure,” she said. “That is for people who are already receiving care through Pivotal, people who are not receiving care through Pivotal, and people who are experiencing homelessness.”

Books said when an individual is petitioned by community members, police, mental health workers, or hospital staff they are required to stay in the emergency room, so there will be additional costs added for those involuntary cases, as well. “If they choose to leave the ER, oftentimes police resources are used in this algorithm to return them,” she said.

After the initial call officers receive for a welfare check, Books said they are looking at diverting all of the costs by getting the individual what they need, getting them to the doctor the next day, getting them to intake the next day for mental health services, making sure they have a safety plan, and giving them the resources they need for success. “I can schedule them with the doctors that already are at Pivotal, or I can get them to intake for Pivotal and do the intake the next day,” she said. “In doing this, we’re looking at saving a lot more than an average of $6,000 per person, per diversion, which is an average of six days per inpatient hospital stay.”

From a holistic perspective, Books said this new partnership does not inflict the trauma which comes from a higher rate of involuntary hospitalizations in the community. “This way we are able to use our resources in the best way possible, and we can allocate funds in a way that’s fiscally responsible and ethically responsible,” she said.

Additionally, Books stated the average layperson or even average social worker in the community doesn’t have knowledge of all the supports and resources available. “It’s part of my job to learn this community in a way that allows me to understand what resources are available and what supports are available,” she said.

When Books is on an emergency call, meets someone in crisis, or talks to the unhoused she said she gets to know them in an effort to understand their needs and find support for what they need. “Whether that is food, clothing, mental health support, substance abuse counseling, or housing, I get them connected with those supports, and help them build their own support network, and solve whatever crisis they are in, no matter how big or small,” she said.

Books’ plan is to do this by learning the community, connecting with small businesses, and connecting with resource centers such as food banks, Keystone Place, The Mission, The County Closet, Domestic and Sexual Abuse Services, and local shelters. “And if I don’t know about the resources myself, I’ll know of someone who does,” she added.

Books told commissioners that in the three weeks she has been with the TRPD she has made 24 documented crisis calls, two calls directly from the ER involving petitioned clients, four hospital diversions, and she also provided transportation to an individual experiencing homelessness to The Mission.

Additionally, she has completed 10 follow-ups based on previous calls, made contact and held meetings with at least five community partners, and assisted one critical-incident stress management debriefing for officers in St. Joseph County. “I will be here for the foreseeable future,” Books said. “I don’t have any plans on leaving. This is an ongoing effort, and I am here 40-plus hours a week.”

At-Large Commissioner Lucas Allen asked, “Having been a police officer I know about voluntary and involuntary holds and enforcing them, but you’d like to do the voluntary thing?” Books said when an individual is having a mental health crisis she is going to “ideally” avoid going to the hospital and doing an inpatient hold, saying, “That’s my last resort. I don’t want to do that.”

Books’ ideal scenario in these situations would be to talk to the individual, make a safety plan, make sure they have supports in place, and discuss the best way to get those supports in place if need be. “I would set up maybe a next-day appointment to do an intake, or make sure I talk to their therapist. If they are a Pivotal client I can go in their file and look at it, see who their therapist and case manager are, and make sure the individual has the ongoing support to get them back to where they need to be,” she said.

Commissioner Carolyn McNary asked if the hospital will call Books for an assessment if there is a person already there experiencing a mental health crisis. “It depends,” Books said. “The hospital has my number for certain cases and they know what the boundaries are for calling me, they just have to get used to it.”

Books said there are certain people designated at Pivotal to do pre-screens for Pivotal clients. “If they need help with someone in crisis who doesn’t necessarily need hospitalization but they just need somebody to talk to and figure out a safety plan, I can help them.”

Beca Welty is a staff writer and columnist for Watershed Voice.