Melbourne police testing new program to help officers during behavioral, mental health emergencies

MELBOURNE, Fla. — The Melbourne Police Department recently launched a pilot program aimed at deescalating crisis situations where behavioral or mental health issues may be involved.


Through partnerships with the Central Florida Cares Health System, the Brevard Family Partnership, and Brevard C.A.R.E.S., officers will be able to respond to calls with a trained clinician by their side.

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The Communications Center for the Melbourne Police Department gets calls about people dealing with behavioral or mental health issues every day.

Deputy Chief David Waltemeyer says most of the time, responding officers aren’t left with many options.

“Officers go out to handle those calls the best they can,” Waltemeyer said. “Unfortunately they may have to commit those individuals or take them to jail. There’s really no middle ground.”

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Waltemeyer says they hope to change that with the pilot program launched last week. It’s a mobile response team that currently has two clinicians participating.

They’ll be working during peak hours for calls into the police department’s communications center.

“We will actually have co-location of highly-skilled and trained staff who are therapists and coordinators of services in the community,” Brevard Family Partnership CEO Philip Scarpelli explained. “When the law enforcement are called to situations, if you will, at homes, many times mental illness or abuse and domestic violence are a predominant issue.”

The program started with a three-year, $1.2 million Criminal Justice, Mental Health, and Substance Abuse Reinvestment grant received from the Florida Department of Children and Families.

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“You don’t want things to escalate to the point where it’s really unfortunate that families would have to be separated from their children and put into care, and/or for families to be brought down to a jail or to be incarcerated when in fact the underlying issue is something that needs treatment,” Scarpelli said.

Police and Brevard Family Partnership officials each say the pilot program may be replicated around the county if it turns out to be successful in Melbourne.

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