NEW BEDFORD — The New Bedford Police Department and Child & Family Services, Inc. Emergency Services Program has announced they have partnered on a co-response program.

New Bedford Police Chief Joseph Cordeiro has recognized the need for improving the availability of behavioral health services in the community.

Chief Cordeiro along with Pam Bolarinho, LICSW ESP Director with the support of the 24-hour program Site Director Wendy Botelho, LMHC have joined together and are piloting a Co-Response Program to service the New Bedford area.

The goal of the Co-Response Program is to provide real-time access to a trained behavioral health clinician.

The program is currently active in several surrounding communities in Massachusetts which include the Boston and Cape Cod areas.

Through the program, an Emergency Services Technician along with NBPD officers have already been responding to individuals who are suffering or experiencing a mental or behavioral health crisis.

The clinician will provide a community-based intervention with the intent to stabilize non-violent individuals, provide linkages to support systems, reduce the need for these individuals to go to a local emergency department, and decreasing arrests of individuals experiencing psychiatric or behavioral health emergencies.

The program also hopes to decrease the number of time officers will be tied up with behavioral health calls and allow officers to tend to calls of service.

Since it's inception two weeks ago, the program has already serviced 16 individuals in the community. St. Luke's Emergency Physicians and Nurses have expressed that when a patient is brought to the emergency room by the co-responder clinician and officer, the handoff has been positive and effective.

The partnership is hopeful that this program will benefit individuals in our community who are suffering for a crisis or mental health issues and provide them with the resources that they need in order to be successful in the community.