Falls and Middletown Police Departments Join the Bucks County Mental Health Co-Responder Program | Newtown News of Interest | Scoop.it

A Bucks County program that aims to give residents support and services beyond police response during mental health and drug abuse emergencies is expanding.


Late last year, the county launched the co-responder program in Bensalem with the goal of getting residents the help they might need beyond an initial 911 call. Under the two-year pilot program, two co-responders, who are licensed social workers, go out to various calls, including those about aging concerns and those that are often rooted in mental health and drug abuse issues.


The Bucks program began with a partnership with Bensalem Police last year.


Last week, County Commissioner Diane Ellis-Marseglia announced that the county had received a $424,000 state grant that it will use to expand the program to Middletown and Falls. The grant was provided through the state Office of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services.


In the months since its inception, the program has been seeing success, officials said. Bensalem Director of Public Safety Fred Harran said the two co-responders have made 160 different contacts since the start of the year.


Harran said residents with mental health issues who had called police before are now calling the co-responders for assistance, freeing up officers to do other things.


“It’s a win-win all around," he said.


With the new grant, the county is able to hire two more co-responders that will work in Falls and Middletown. The two will work in tandem between the two townships, according to Marseglia. One will be based in each department.


“We have a lot of contacts, daily with people who are struggling with mental health issues and the pandemic has only exacerbated that," Falls Chief Nelson Whitney said. "So it’s a great time to bring on a program to try to help.”


Rachel Neff, human services director for the county, said Falls and Middletown were chosen because Whitney and Middletown Chief Joseph Bartorilla had expressed interest in joining.