2022 NACo Achievement Award: Dauphin County Earns National Recognition for Mental Health Diversion Network

NACO award 2022
Dauphin County has been awarded a National Association of Counties (NACo) Achievement Award for efforts to divert individuals to mental health services.

NACo announced the winners this week, following submissions from counties across the country. Dauphin County was awarded in the Criminal Justice and Public Safety category.

Dauphin County’s submission regards a comprehensive approach to providing for those with mental health needs – specifically, proper response upon a person’s encounter with law enforcement.

“It is an honor to be recognized nationally as a trailblazer among peers for our diversion efforts to place people in treatment rather than prison cells,” said Dauphin County Commissioner George P. Hartwick, III, who oversees county human service departments.

Dauphin County’s overall strategy and mission involves implementation of a number of techniques and programs, including co-responders (with police), Crisis Intervention Training, and assessments at intake for individuals charged with a crime.

“We recognize local government’s top priority is protecting the public,” Commissioner Chair Mike Pries said. “We achieve that goal while also setting up individuals for better long-term outcomes by providing treatment options.”

Dauphin County Commissioner Chad Saylor said: “The collaboration across the board is really making a difference in meeting the needs of people with mental illness. I am proud of the departments working towards this shared mission.”

In 2021, more than 3,300 calls to Dauphin County’s 9-1-1 center were flagged as involving behavioral health components.

To combat the need for specialized response, the county will have more than 250 CIT-trained officers following an upcoming CIT class graduation. Additionally, there are eight co-responders working with all police departments in Dauphin County.

“Our co-responder program and CIT training has enabled police to better interact with these citizens when called to do so — usually with no arrest,” District Attorney Fran Chardo said. “Our police have fully embraced the concept and the CIT graduates proudly wear the pin on their uniforms.”

About 2,000 law enforcement contacts/incidents in 2021 resulted in co-responder interaction.

“The evolution of policing and our profession continues,” Susquehanna Township Police Chief Robert Martin said, noting police stations now serve a role as human services hubs.

Even more officers are expected to receive CIT training as department staffing allows for the 40-hour battery of classes.

Read more about the awards and Dauphin County’s submission HERE.