New center offers help instead of jail time

The following editorial appeared in the Fayetteville Observer:

Officers respond to a disturbance. Someone shouts or threatens others. The disruptive person makes a scene but doesn’t harm person or property.

Officers suspect they are witnessing a mental-health crisis, not criminal behavior. But if they don’t intervene, the person could get further out of control and someone could be hurt.

Taking the party to jail seems ill-advised without any criminal charges. It also takes space needed for real offenders. Medical attention makes more sense, but an emergency room wait could be hours, tying up officers for long periods and posing a security risk to other patients.

That scenario isn’t rare. Fortunately, law enforcement agencies in Cumberland County now have an additional option. The Roxie Avenue Behavioral Healthcare Center, which fully opened last month, offers a safe place to calm down and be evaluated for up to 24 hours. Patients can seek help or be escorted there by police. Services are provided without charge.

The center, part of the Cape Fear Valley system, is similar to ones in Raleigh and Durham. Local officers have been seeking it for years as a “jail-diversion tool.”

With officers and health professionals cooperating, the center is an innovative approach. It deserves applause.

Tribune Content Agency