Cardinal Innovations Healthcare and CMPD Work Together to Address Mental Health and Substance Use

Cardinal Innovations Healthcare — September 21, 2017

Charlotte, N.C. (September 21, 2017) – Cardinal Innovations Healthcare is working with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department (CMPD) to help individuals with mental health and/or substance use disorders get the assistance they need through a program that started in Charlotte earlier this year.

On September 21, Cardinal Innovations will work with CMPD and other community organizations to meet with individuals in the Belmont community and help link them to services they may need such as housing, employment or treatment for mental illness and/or substance use.

CMPD’s partnership with Cardinal Innovations was an idea born out of Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training. Through the CIT program, police and other first responders are trained to improve responses to individuals in crisis. Cardinal Innovations offers CIT training throughout the 20-county region where it manages care for individuals with complex behavioral health needs.

Police officers in the CMPD Central Division began working in January to reduce panhandling, which involves individuals asking strangers for money and has been a challenge in Uptown Charlotte for years, according to police. Panhandling is a crime and individuals can receive a citation for it. In August, Cardinal Innovations Member Engagement Specialist Ron Clark and Cardinal Innovations network providers Anuvia Prevention and Recovery and Amara Wellness joined CMPD officers to help link anyone caught panhandling to services. If the individual committed to treatment, the citation could then be dropped at their court appearance. Cardinal Innovations Community Engagement Specialist Amy Rudisill has been instrumental in connecting police to Cardinal Innovations providers.

“Our traditional response to panhandling was to just make arrests or move them along, but that doesn’t address the problem that is getting them down there panhandling,” said Officer Russ Faulkenberry, Central Division Community Coordinator with CMPD. “The idea with this effort was to meet their immediate need for that night. If you need somewhere to go, we have someone there from the Men’s Shelter. If you need detox services, we have someone there to help you with that.”

The approach has been successful, Faulkenberry said. For example, working with Cardinal Innovations and its providers as well as other community organizations has helped police get one man who had been arrested over 200 times into a substance use treatment program. Calls to 911 for police and medical services for that same person totaled $60,000 for one year, Faulkenberry said. Getting help for people like this man is cost effective, he said, “If you had four people like him, that’s $240,000. Someone is paying for that.”

Now police plan to focus more on helping and less on arresting, Faulkenberry said. The upcoming event in Belmont will be police helping people connect to services and will be completely voluntary on the part of those who need help, he said. Clark, a Member Engagement Specialist for Cardinal Innovations, trains local law enforcement in CIT and was named CIT Advocate of the Year in 2017 by the Mecklenburg County Crisis Intervention Team. He said working with police to link individuals with mental health and substance use needs is a natural extension of the work he does through CIT training.

“As a CIT advocate, I assist in the training of officers and first responders to reduce harm as well as to increase diversion from jail for individuals living with mental health or substance use disorders,” Clark said. He often speaks to first responders about stigmas associated with mental health and substance use.

“I give officers the opportunity to be up close and personal with a person who has had 21 years of active addiction to drugs and has been incarcerated, but now lives a very productive life in recovery," said Clark, referring to his personal experiences.

“Ron is able to cut through any excuse that any individual might have. He’s a wonderful resource to have,” Faulkenberry said, adding that both Clark and Rudisill’s contributions have helped police build trust with providers.

Cardinal Innovations and CMPD plan to continue these efforts monthly in communities throughout Charlotte, N.C. Other organizations involved in this effort include: The Urban Ministry, The Men's Shelter, the Mecklenburg County CIT clinician, the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services, Carolina Alcohol and Drug Resources (CADRE) and Mental Health Jail Liaison Melissa Zhiss with the Mecklenburg County Forensic Evaluations Unit.

Media Contact: Ashley Conger
Vice President of Corporate Communications & Marketing


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