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UMMC adds full-time behavioral response team to its police force

Photo courtesy of UMMC

After being debuted as a temporary unit in February, the University of Mississippi Medical Center’s Police and Public Safety Department’s behavioral response team (BRT) has been added as a permanent entity.

The unit, which rapidly responds to panic alarms and disruptive patient emergencies – also known as code white — was designed to reduce the number of workplace violence incidents and injuries to patients, employees, students, and visitors.

Dressed in plain clothes with a weapon, badge, and an ID clipped to their belts, the four officers, work in shifts of two and intervene to de-escalate situations that might otherwise become violent enough to require an arrest or hospitalization.

During the 30-day initiation, the team of two responded to more than 100 calls. When the pilot was over, the calls continued to ring, helping to solidify its success.

Police Chief Mary Paradis, who requested that the BRT be made permanent, said that she is grateful institutional leadership approved the request to fund the unit.

“In today’s world, law enforcement is routinely called to respond to folks who are experiencing a behavioral health crisis, and UMMC is not immune,” Paradis said. “Through empathy and community policing, we will be able to better protect our fellow UMMC staff and visitors.”

Dr. Jonathan Wilson, chief administrative officer, said the BRT concept was developed after tracking data from code white activations, panic alarms, and service calls to UMMC Police. After measuring the positive response to the BRT, administrators felt confident about funding a permanent and expanded team.

“Funding new projects is always a challenge, but workplace violence is an important initiative, and the need was seen by leadership across the institution,” Wilson said. “We are fortunate to have the BRT in place to not only better serve our patients and their visitors but also to better protect our staff, students and faculty.“

The officers, who undergo crisis intervention training through Hinds Behavioral Health Services, patrol the entire medical center while on shift. The BRT officers work a rotating schedule of 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily, including weekends.

“Aggressive patients, homeless citizens trying to get help, and visitors and patients expressing concerns about adjusting to hospital rules concerning COVID issues,”  are issues BRT has addressed according to Sergeant Shaun Hiley, who oversees the team. “We have also been called by nursing staff for patients just needing to talk to someone because they are having a bad day.”

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