NEW ORLEANS – The NOPD’s Crisis Transportation Service is searching for volunteers to serve as mental health technicians to assist in its mission to provide a more dignified and humane method of care and transport for those persons encountered by the NOPD who are mentally ill and/or emotionally disturbed.
A joint venture between the NOPD and Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals’ Division of Mental Health, the unit consists of highly motivated and trained volunteers who respond at the request of NOPD District officers when mental health calls are received. It also works to separate those individuals from the criminal justice system and to seek treatment for their illnesses in lieu of incarceration. By doing this, the service looks to improve the quality of life for not only the patients but their families.
“The Crisis Transportation Service has developed an expertise and has proven to be successful in providing humane transportation to the mentally ill,” said Sgt. Ben Glaudi, who heads the unit. “By diverting the mentally ill from possible encounters with the criminal and/or juvenile justice system, this unit helps to relieve the NOPD district officers and enabling them to continue their maximum law enforcement capacity.”
The unit currently has between 15 and 20 volunteers, and works shifts from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. to midnight. However, additional volunteers are needed to provide adequate staffing for all shifts.
“Ideally, we’d like to have about 50 volunteers to ensure that all shifts per month are staffed,” said Glaudi.
Volunteers with the Crisis Transportation Service must be at least 21 years of age, have a high school diploma or equivalent, pass a standard drug screen and police background check, must possess a valid Louisiana driver’s license and have a desire to become an elite member of the community. In addition, volunteers are asked to purchase an official uniform that includes pants, a white uniform shirt, collar insignias, black shoes and a black belt from an authorized uniform supplier.
As part of the training, volunteers will attend classroom training featuring mental health professionals covering various related topics and complete six field training ride with a field trainer to grade skill and aptitude. Volunteers are asked to work a minimum of two six-hour shifts per month with an experienced crisis unit technician and attend in-service meetings every three months for organizational information.
Many NOPD officers began their relationship with the department by volunteering with the Crisis Transportation Service before entering the Training Academy to become commissioned officers. This includes current officers as well as command staff.
“I was a volunteer with the Crisis Transportation Service from 1990 to 1991 until I joined the New Orleans Police Department,” said NOPD Deputy Chief John Thomas. “The Crisis Transportation Service provided me the opportunity to serve my community by providing humane transportation to those in our society who suffer from mental illness. This was one of the most rewarding experiences I ever had, knowing I was making a difference in not only the patient life, but the life of family members who had to make the tuff decision to call for assistance. This volunteer work allowed officers to return to the streets and patrol the city while the Crisis Transportation Services assisted with the commitment of mental patients, which can often be time consuming. It is my opinion, as a result of the training I received and the satisfaction of helping individuals in crisis is why I am who I am today.”
NOPD Fifth District Commander Frank Young began volunteering with the service in 1991 as a technician while he was attending the University of New Orleans.
“I had always had an interest in law enforcement, so volunteering with NOPD was a great way for me to test the waters while maintaining full-time status in college,” he said. “Upon graduating from UNO, I applied to the New Orleans Police Department and never looked back. The Crisis Transportation Service not only provided the department with a valuable service, it introduced me to a fulfilling and satisfying career.”