New mental health team with Iron Co. Sheriff’s Office making a difference

Sep 28, 2021, 6:27 PM | Updated: 10:28 pm

CEDAR CITY, Utah — A growing issue for law enforcement is getting more attention, and in some places, more resources.

Mental health emergencies are tough to handle, but one Utah county said they’ve found a solution.

Law enforcement usually deals with people on their worst days.

Last month, Zach was having a bad one. He was yelling and cursing at officers who had been called to his location. However, he didn’t do anything wrong and wasn’t trying to avoid police. He was just having a mental health breakdown.

“He wasn’t trying to harm anyone and he just needed help, and you could just see that and feel that from him,” said Dep. Brenda Pires with the Iron County Sheriff’s Office.

In a way, it’s a good thing he and his mother were in Iron County.

Deputies there recently trained and created a team, specifically for mental health calls.

“We’re not really trained to handle those types of calls, or at least we weren’t,” said Pires. “But, we are handling those types of calls. We’re the ones taking those calls all the time because people don’t know what to do.”

Last year, Pires asked the Iron County Sheriff about training a team to respond to these calls.

The team launched this past April.

“We’re trying to help them. We’re not trying to take them and haul them off to jail,” said Pires. “Like, what exactly is happening? How can I help you?”

It’s a different way of responding with a different mindset that maybe didn’t happen before.

“I want to get the word out there to the community, so they know, when they do call 911, sometimes people with autistic children and someone with a mental disability, they’re afraid to call the police because they don’t want that bad outcome,” said Pires.

The team hosted a barbecue recently with autistic children in the community to get to know each other and their families.

As for Zach, deputies helped him and his mother find the right help.

They’re doing better today.

“If you ask for it specifically, we will get the right people there to help you with that situation,” said Pires. “We’re not trying to be counselors, but really, it’s a bridge between the community and the resources we have to try to get them the help they need.”

The team includes deputies from Garfield and Beaver counties.

So far, the team has responded to about 75 mental health calls.

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