Child crisis program hopes to expand to all CMPD divisions

The Mecklenburg County agency that assists Charlotte-Mecklenburg police with children who are mistreated or witness violence requested new money to continue expanding the community policing program to each of CMPD’s 13 divisions.

The request for nearly $470,000 came at Tuesday’s public policy workshop – a prelude to the recommended budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1 that County Manager Dena Diorio will unveil in late May.

Child Development-Community Policing, a division of the county’s Provided Services Organization, places mental health professionals on call 24 hours a day to respond to police calls involving child victims or children who witness violence or other trauma.

The program sends mental health professionals to cases where children may be traumatized and also trains officers in crisis intervention.

Connie Mele, director of provided services, said CD-CP would use the money to fund six new mental health positions that would be assigned to CMPD’s Independence, North, Central and South divisions.

“It will allow us to be one of the first departments in the country that has a police-mental health collaboration that places a focus on children,” Mele told commissioners.

Since 1996, the agency has partnered with CMPD and Yale University to build a program that tries to reestablish safety and security for children in the wake of violent events. It is similar to a program in New Haven, Conn., created by the Yale Child Study Center and the police department.

The program’s goals are to increase a police officer’s ability to identify a child exposed to violence, and to increase coordinated services focused on children and their families.

Critical to Charlotte-Mecklenburg’s program, police officers play a central role in the intervention, capitalizing on their roles as representatives of control and authority in the face of trauma and violence.

The hope is that officers and clinicians calm a traumatized child, interrupting a path that frequently leads to increased risk of psychiatric problems, academic failure and encounters with the law.

The work of the Charlotte and New Haven teams have received widespread acclaim. They are working with the International Association of Chiefs of Police to improve police responses to children exposed to violence.

The U.S. Justice Department’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention recently named Charlotte-Mecklenburg as the Southeast training center for the National Center for Children Exposed to Violence.

In the current fiscal year, CD-CP added staffing to the Hickory Grove and University City divisions and trained more than 150 officers.

Commissioners’ Chairman Trevor Fuller said the new positions need to be funded.

“Our most important job is protecting our children ... and by funding those positions we can better protect children everywhere in Mecklenburg County,” Fuller said. “It’s a response time issue. And we want to make sure that certain divisions are not perceived as not being a part of this program. We want all divisions to take part.”

Perlmutt: 704-358-5061