CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — Officials in West Virginia’s capital city are looking to hire a mental health coordinator to work alongside police, help out in crises, and conduct community outreach.
The Charleston City Council voted on Monday to approve using federal grant money to pay for the two-year position, which will serve as a pilot project for the city, the Charleston Gazette-Mail reported.
“If we can show that this has been a benefit to the citizens of Charleston and been extremely helpful to our police department, then we’ll look for that money and do future securing,” Mayor Amy Shuler Goodwin said.
Charleston Police Chief Tyke Hunt said Tuesday he supports adding the position because having officers handle mental health emergencies makes the job more difficult.
“Police officers are often tasked with trying to wear too many hats,” Hunt said. “The mental health professional is going to help us do our job better, because we can begin to identify some of those folks that need help that may not need the penitentiary … they just need medical treatment.”
Councilman Joe Jenkins said the position aims to allow the police department to put more resources toward tracking criminals instead of dealing with mental health situations.
“Unfortunately, the police in these types of situations is a sledgehammer when a scalpel is needed,” Jenkins said.