Canton Police and Crisis Center working on new program to help teens with mental distress

CANTON, Ohio - Canton Police are working with the Crisis Intervention and Recovery Center on a new program to help struggling teens.

The program is called Mobile Youth Response. Police and the crisis center said they are responding to more calls involving juveniles with emotional issues, and they want to make sure the youths are getting the help they need.

"A lot of peer pressure," said Jeff Allen, Executive Director of the Crisis Intervention and Recovery Center, "Sometimes there may be bullying."

Allen said his new mobile youth response team has already responded to three calls on Wednesday.

"Young person could have a grandparent, who they're very close to, and they're having a very difficult time going through the grieving process," he said.

According to Allen, many youths are under a lot of stress, and sometimes they act out.

Canton Police Lt. John Gabbard said situations like that are not ideal, and sometimes, the use of force is unavoidable.

"It doesn't always work out in that we end that situation, without using force," said Lt. Gabbard.

This past June, a Canton police officer shot a man, who tried to strike him with a baseball bat.

Lt. Gabbard refused to comment on individual incidents but said police have learned to better understand and handle situations.

He said more than 60 percent of Canton police officers are trained on mental health.

“The police culture is getting better at understanding that we need more resources from the mental community,” said Lt. Gabbard

He said this new program involves more than just calling a caseworker or mental health professional. The goal is for police to avoid arrests or use of force. The crisis center also received a $285,000 grant from Stark County to do follow-ups with the youths.

“When the police officer makes contact with somebody who needs assistance and to help us to solve the problem at the time, like they do with adults, but in this instance, they follow up with the family for 30 days,” he said.

For the first half of 2017, Canton Police reports responding to 85 calls involving people needing some sort of mental help.

“About 92% of those incidents this year have ended without an arrest,” said Gabbard.

Currently, the youth mobile response team is available from Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

However, the crisis center is hoping to expand those hours in the future. Stark County’s Crisis Hotline is 330-452-6000.

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