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Six police forces form jail diversion initiative

Six Plymouth County police departments are collaborating to improve how they respond to calls involving people with mental illness, with the help of state funding.

The state Department of Mental Health awarded a $45,000 Regional Jail Diversion grant to a newly-formed coalition representing the Bridgewater, East Bridgewater, Middleborough, West Bridgewater, Whitman, and Bridgewater State University police forces.

Through the grant, secured by the Bridgewater Police Department, the collaborating departments plan to hire a full-time mental health clinician who will respond with officers on calls where a person is dealing with a mental health issue.

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In working with the clinician, police will have the opportunity to divert those individuals from the criminal justice system and instead provide them with support and treatment referrals.

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Officials said the program will also indirectly enhance their departments’ efforts to combat the opioid epidemic because, for many people with substance abuse problems, their addictions are rooted in mental health issues.

“More and more often we are seeing crimes committed by those with mental health or substance abuse issues. Putting them in jail and in the court system in many cases doesn’t get these individuals the help that they need,” Bridgewater Police Chief Christopher Delmonte said in a statement.

John Laidler can be reached at john.laidler@globe.com.