Mental health liaison aids police department

Shawn Hardy
Kay Martin

Kay Martin tries to meet people where they are and get them what they need.

Since May 2017, she's been in contact with 66 people in the Borough of Greencastle as a Keystone Health mental health liaison embedded with the police department. Her position, currently funded by a grant from the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency, also includes the police departments Waynesboro and Washington Township.

Thirty-two people had a mental health diagnosis, 22 had drug and alcohol problems and the rest had both, Martin told Greencastle Borough Council Monday night. She is in Greencastle on Tuesdays and Thursdays and available other times to assist on police calls. If she is not available for a live call, she will do followup.

Police Chief John Phillippy said Martin assists the department with people who otherwise would end up locked up.

"A lot of them don't belong in jail," he said, noting instead of clogging the judicial system or being a nuisance, they become productive members of society with Martin's help.

"This is one of the most proactive programs I've seen in my police experience," said Mayor Ben Thomas Jr., a former police officer.

Martin provided the example of a referral she received early on concerning a veteran displaying bizarre behavior. The man was picking flowers in the police chief's father's yard, giving them to neighbors and making inappropriate suggestions. He also made inappropriate suggestions to fast food workers and peeked in school windows.

Martin was able to secure a diagnosis and helped him get medication, case management and therapy.

"I believe without this program, he would have ended up in jail," Martin said.

She also was brought in when there was a suicidal 16-year-old boy from Virginia at a Greencastle motel.

He later called, said he was in therapy and thanked Martin for her help.

The community liaison grant expires in December, but Martin said other grants to continue the position are actively being pursued.

"I've been assured this position will continue," she said.

She added Chambersburg is begging for a co-responder, Pennsylvania State Police are willing to come on board and services are also needed in Fulton County.

"I'd like to see someone available 24/7," Martin said.