Clinician's Digest

Clinician's Digest

Police and Therapists: A New Alliance

By Chris Lyford

September/October 2018

Courtney Tran starts her day by arriving at her desk at the Aurora Police Department’s third precinct, and files paperwork until the dispatcher’s voice crackles over a two-way radio. She’s spent almost a year learning what to expect from these calls—reports of a suspicious trespasser, a domestic disturbance, somebody threatening suicide—but still grapples with the sheer unpredictability of the work. As the radio blares, she straps on a heavy bulletproof vest, jumps into a police car with an officer, and speeds to the scene.

Five years ago, Tran got her start in clinical work with Aurora Mental Health Center, a private nonprofit clinic. But over the past 11 months, in conjunction with her employer, she’s been embedded with two other mental health professionals in the Aurora Police Department as part of a two-year program funded by the Department of Justice (DOJ). Accompanying a police officer on calls where mental illness is a suspected factor, once on the scene, the two can perform full mental health evaluations and suicide screenings, arrange for placements into psychiatric or substance abuse clinics, and contact case managers to take over. Most notably, Tran is lending her expertise in an arena many say desperately needs a therapist’s empathic touch and careful discernment.

One afternoon, just weeks after Tran started work at Precinct 3, the dispatcher radioed in about a suicidal teenager, potentially armed and dangerous. She looked the boy up in the police…

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