New Bedford Police Provide Insight on Mental Health Clinicians’ Schedule
The New Bedford Police Department is offering insight into why no mental health clinicians were present during a July 2 incident at the King Village East apartments when a man experiencing an alleged mental health incident first fired a gun at police before turning the firearm on himself.
On Monday, WBSM’s Chris McCarthy reported that during the weekend of July 4, the mental health clinicians that work with the New Bedford Police Department were all off for the holiday weekend. McCarthy learned this information through scanner traffic and confirmed it with sources.
In May, the New Bedford Police Department announced on Facebook that the Department of Health co-response team would be “going live” that month.
“Building on the great work done in our department since 2018, this new team will be made up of a small group of officers selected from the Outreach Team to work directly with a lead licensed clinician from NorthStar Learning Centers, Inc. who has been an active member of our Community Crisis Intervention Team for several years now,” the post read. “Chief Paul Oliveira and the New Bedford Police Department are very excited for this new team, which will allow us to offer enhanced levels of care to members of our community suffering from a mental health episode!”
In a statement to WBSM following the publication of McCarthy’s article, police spokesperson Lt. Scott Carola reiterated the level of care police could now provide to individuals in the throes of a mental health crisis.
“The New Bedford police department is committed to utilizing all of the resources available to us in our efforts to ensure the highest quality of service,” Carola said. “Our collaboration with Child & Family Services has been a great success and we have now augmented that co-response with the addition of mental health clinicians from NorthStar. This provides us with a respectable level of accessibility to professionals out in the field when responding to calls involving people in emotional/mental crisis.”
“Having said that, these programs are currently made possible with grant funding which is not limitless. We would prefer access to emergency mental health services 24-7, however, this is not yet feasible,” he said. “Additionally, from a tactical and safety perspective, not every call involving an individual in crisis is appropriate for a civilian response.”
Carola confirmed to WBSM that the King Village incident was one of those cases.
"It would not have been an appropriate call for the clinician at that time, by virtue of the fact that the subject was non-communicative," he said.
In his article, McCarthy suggested that not having clinicians available could have been a scheduling error. Carola said scheduling is designed to “maximize coverage.”
“Clinicians are scheduled in such a fashion that their shifts are spread throughout the week to maximize coverage,” he said. “Currently, the department utilizes grant money to have a group of clinicians ride with police officers at varying times.”
Pam Bolarinho, Program Director for Emergency Services at Child and Family Services, sent a message to the WBSM Facebook inbox regarding McCarthy's article.
"Child and Family, who does the co-response program with the NBPD, was fully staffed during the holiday weekend," Bolarinho said. "Had a call been placed, we would’ve responded immediately like we do seven days a week, 365 days a year."
Carola added that the police department is seeking to add a clinician to its staff full-time.
“The NBPD is also seeking a grant from the Department of Mental Health which would allow for a full-time clinician, greatly expanding the coverage we currently enjoy,” he said.