Embedded mental health clinician initiative expansion

March 2, 2022

The Columbia Police Department (CPD) with the full support of Columbia City Council announces the expansion of an initiative that assists citizens encountered by officers during mental health or behavioral related calls for service.

The existing Pathways Unit is comprised of a South Carolina Department of Mental Health (DMH) counselor and a CPD officer who is certified as a Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) member and crisis negotiator. The Unit is deployed to calls for service if a citizen requires mental health support. Typically, the calls received are non-violent in nature but can also be made when a citizen needs intervention or hospital care. If there is an emergency, the Pathways Unit can assist a mental health client who may require additional services. Unit members can also make after-hours referrals by calling a dedicated mobile crisis hotline.

The newly approved expansion will allow additional counselors to join the Pathways Unit and further its overall mission and services provided.

Chief W.H. ‘Skip’ Holbrook says, “We do not arrest our way out of a crisis. There are people in our community who need significant mental health intervention and care rather than a bed inside a jail cell. The partnership joins and develops additional support for those affected by mental illness and determines specific needs while showing care and compassion.”

Once a referral is made and services utilized by the Pathways Unit, members follow up with a mental health client at their homes or last known location to determine if additional assistance is needed. Since the Pathways Unit was deployed last fall, members have made contact with 120 citizens experiencing some form of mental crisis.

Additionally, since 2018, CPD has been a part of the ‘One Mind Campaign’, an initiative that lays a foundation for successful interactions between police officers and persons affected by mental illness. All sworn CPD officers receive basic Mental Health Crisis Intervention Training (CIT) from certified National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) instructors on a yearly basis. In fact, 179 officers have received the valuable training.