GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) — A Greensboro program aimed at helping you and your loved ones in a mental health crisis is already looking to expand less than three years after its launch.
The Behavioral Health Response Team is exploring ways to offer its services more frequently to the community. The team has been busy this year. So far, the counselors have responded to nearly 1,800 calls. That’s compared to about 1,200 calls in all of 2022.
Right now, the team works Monday through Friday, but we all know mental health emergencies can happen at any time.
“There are some really dedicated folks who go above and beyond and outside of outside of work hours to try to meet the level of service that’s needed,” said Latisha McNeil, the division manager with Greensboro’s Office of Community Safety. “Being able to give a reprieve for those folks so that maybe … they can then take a break and someone else can go answer a call. That will be ideal.”
Six crisis counselors work throughout the week from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. to make sure when you call 911, someone is there to help in case of a mental health emergency. McNeil would like to add four to five more people to the team.
“It would allow us to have more coverage during the hours that we are already operational, but then it would give us some flexibility,” she said.
Flexibility to offer the services on weekends, holidays and in the middle of the night.
Since its launch in January of 2021, the team has not only responded to calls but also provided thousands of hours of follow-up services.
“Sometimes the follow-up is … ‘Hey, thanks for your help, but I’m OK,'” McNeil said. “Then sometimes that follow-up is … ‘I really need to be connected to services or I was engaged in services, and I kind of fell off with that. Can you help me to get re-engaged?'”
McNeil is confident she could fill the additional positions, but it takes money. Over the next year, she’ll work to find ways to expand her team’s reach, which she hopes people will one day view as an essential part of emergency response.
“I want us to get to the point where we’re able to think of it in terms of fire, police, 911, community safety because it is an important part of what public safety entities do, and it helps all of us to be safer when we can have the right people responding,” she said.
With the current number of counselors, McNeil said each team responds to about eight to 10 calls per day. With more members, they’d be able to double that.