Corbin Police Department may soon have a new face in the office who won’t be carrying a gun.
Whitley County Health Department Public Health Director Marcy Rein presented the plan for a pilot program, which would place a behavioral health clinician inside the Corbin Police Department, to the Corbin City Commission on Jan. 19.
As part of the pilot program, the clinician would be available to provide both formal and informal training to police staff and other city staff and assist in offering consultations to officers on call or during encounters.
“We want to give them [officers] more tools to use and we want to take the pressure off of law enforcement in dealing with everything that comes their way,” said Rein.
Some of the goals of the pilot program include reducing the strain and cost associated with ‘high utilizers’, or individuals who frequently cycle through the legal system, reduce the repeated cycle of individuals moving through the system, and improve continuity of care and the outcome for people who use drugs and experience mental health crisis.
Rein said the program would give the clinician the opportunity to conduct follow ups with individuals. The clinician would be available to consult while officers are out in the field by providing verbal assistance, speaking with the individual or helping in-person at a secure scene, or even by following up the next day with the person.
Corbin Police Chief Rusty Hedrick said that when the idea was first proposed, he was excited.
“I was excited and felt that it would be a unique opportunity for our department to have someone like that housed within the department that we could utilize,” said Hedrick. “It is something that most departments don’t have, but I think [it] is very much needed.”
The pilot program will be funded by the S.T.A.R. (Standing Together for Appalachian Resilience) grant received by the Whitley County Health Department. The grant focuses on the collaboration between public health, public safety and behavioral health in responding to substance use.
The leadership team for the pilot program is a combination of Corbin Police Chief Rusty Hedrick, Dayspring Behavioral Health staff, Operation Unite, Circuit Court Judge Paul Winchester – who does drug court, and the Whitley County Health Department.
Rein said the health department hopes to get one year out of the pilot program.
Although the clinician would be located within the Corbin Police Department, they would work for an outside health organization thus they would not be employees of either the police department or health department.
Rein said one reason for this is that by contracting out, the clinician’s employer would be responsible for reporting aspects, as well as billing for the behavioral health services.
The grant will fund the salary and equipment needed for the clinician. The program is at no cost to the city other than agreeing to collaborate with that person and provide them the space to work.
Rein said that long term, the program could be sustainable if the clinician were able to bill for their services.
Corbin Mayor Suzie Razmus said, “We are looking forward to this partnership and are hopeful it will provide welcome support for our police and fire departments as they deal with increasing levels of mental health and substance abuse as they go about their responsibilities of protecting the public.”
The health department is providing organizational support to develop policy and procedures so that everyone is comfortable with what the clinician will and will not do as well as helping to evaluate the project to see if it successful.
No clinician has been selected to fill the position.