A Mobile Crisis Response Unit for Carroll County is set to launch in 2021, with the goal of de-escalating psychiatric calls received by 911.

The unit was created with a partnership between many community leaders and organizations, including the Carroll County Health Advocates, Carrollton Police Department, the City of Carrollton, Carroll County, Willowbrooke at Tanner, Pathways Center, and West Georgia Ambulance Service.

This unit will be linked to the Carroll County 911 system and will serve the entire county, responding to calls that dispatchers identify as a mental health crisis.

A two-person team will be dispatched, composed of a Licensed Professional Counselor, and Carrollton PD officer and certified paramedic, Chiquita Thomasson. The counselor for this team has yet to be selected.

The team will answer calls in plain clothing and will approach the scene in an unmarked vehicle, a 2020 Ford Explorer that was donated by Steve Adams.

The benefit of being in plain clothes means that the intimidation factor of being law enforcement is no longer there, Thomasson said. All the person will see is another person there to help them — not arrest or hospitalize them.

And when not responding to a call, the duo will be doing follow-ups on previous calls and checking in on individuals who were in crises they previously helped de-escalate.

As a current officer, Thomasson said that psychiatric calls come in daily, ranging from anxiety issues to people experiencing a full-blown manic state.

She said that currently, first responders only have two options: making an arrest for nuisance crimes or sending the person to the hospital. This de-escalation unit can now add a third option.

“I don’t think that it is always necessary for [someone] to have to be arrested or be surrounded by law enforcement when they’re going through a crisis, and I don’t think they necessarily have to be hospitalized,” said Thomasson.

“They don’t have to go sit at the jail; they don’t have to go to the hospital,” she added.

Jodie Goodman, executive director of Carroll County Health Advocates, said that this unit will be a game-changer for the community. She added that jail is not always the right answer and they would want to avoid that at all costs.

Due to the qualifications of the members of the unit, Goodman said that this will prevent an abundance of first responders being sent to the call — fire trucks, police cars, and ambulances all dispatched at the same time — helping both the individual and the taxpayer.

“I think this will be a great benefit for the citizens in our community,” said Goodman.