Pittsfield Police Chief Michael Wynn discusses the importance of mental health in various aspects of law enforcement during the June 22 monthly meeting of the Massachusetts Mayors’ Association in Amesbury.

On June 22, mayors from across the state gathered in Amesbury to hear from experts on addressing the challenges surrounding mental health and policing and the resources available to their communities.

Pittsfield Police Chief Michael Wynn, a member of the Peace Officer and Standards Training Commission, gave an overview of the issue from a municipal and public safety perspective and shared examples of co-response crisis intervention teams. He emphasized the importance of not only improving police response during mental health crises, but also the pressing need to address the mental health of first responders.

John Barber, forensic director for the Department of Mental Health Services Western Area, and Sarah Abbott, founder and principal of Abbott Solutions for Justice, highlighted the array of grant opportunities available to municipalities. These included the Jail Diversion Programs, which encourages the use of de-escalation and less force during interactions between first responders and people in crisis and has shown to decrease arrests and unnecessary visits to the emergency room. JDP funding began in 2007 and now has $9 million available, with more than 100 grants impacting 175 municipalities.

The meeting concluded with a presentation by the Amesbury School Support and Empowerment Team (ASSET), which brings together stakeholders from Amesbury Public Schools, Amesbury Police, Amesbury Fire, the mayor’s office, and the Pettengill House to enhance communication between to better respond to and support Amesbury Public School families and students.

Written by