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YCSO staff honored by advocacy agency

The Camp Verde Journal of Camp Verde, Arizona

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David's Hope, a statewide mental health and criminal justice advocacy coalition, is a nonprofit organization created in 2009 with the goal of reducing incarceration and promoting treatment for those with mental illness and addictions involved in the criminal justice system.

Recently, Yavapai County Sheriff Mascher and eight YCSO employees were recognizeed for their efforts regarding the Sheriff's Office mental health unit at the Camp Verde Detention Center, and a barricaded suspect incident resolved through negotiation and use of mental health professionals in hopes of a long-term resolution.

A ceremony honoring these individuals took place Oct. 9 in Scottsdale.

Mascher, who led the formation of the Yavapai County Mental Health Criminal Justice and Community Coalition, remains committed to innovative approaches in dealing with mental illness issues.

"My goal with the coalition is to involve critical stakeholders who can provide resources for those with mental illness needing treatment. The intent is to avoid criminalizing mental illness — incarceration in many cases should be a last resort."

Detention Sgt. Armando Santana was awarded the Crisis Response Officer of Distinction.

In 2014, at the direction of Mascher and Detention Services Capt. David Rhodes, Santana was asked to take a primary leader ship role in the creation of the Yavapai County Sheriff's Office Jail Mental Health Unit.

Within five months of the sheriff's office creating the specialized unit under Santana's leadership, 50 inmates who previously had to be isolated due to their illness were able to be safely reintegrated and socialized.

The YCSO credits Santana with making the mental health unit the success it is today.

Jail Commander Capt. David Rhodes said, "His efforts have helped debunk myths and stigma surrounding mental illness and the way people must be treated for security reasons. This mental health unit was created by the sheriff's office with the leadership of Sgt. Santana all through a spirit of service and self-sacrifice."

Deputy John Vanderhoven was awarded the Crisis Officer of Distinction.

On May 15, YCSO deputies responded to a report in Prescott Valley of a female that shot a pistol inside a residence. Six officers initially arrived on the scene that evening, all of whom have been recognized for their outstanding response to this distraught, suicidal and possibly substance-impaired subject.

As the officers arrived and assessed the situation, Vanderhoven made contact with the subject by telephone. The woman, in obvious crisis, continued to scream and cry that she was going to kill herself but then would hang up the phone.

Vanderhoven continued to call her and talk to her, and each time she became calmer and quieter before hanging up again. Many calls later, Vanderhoven believed he was making progress and the woman began to cry and speak about her father.

The officers had learned earlier from the subject's significant other, that her father had committed suicide.

SWAT was called out, a mental health professional was called out and another negotiator was called out with additional communication equipment in case it became impossible to use the cell phone. The subject, however, continued to respond with interest to Vanderhoven's promptings and each phone call was keeping the subject engaged longer and in meaningful conversation.

After a long period of time during which he worked patiently to gain her trust, she eventually stayed on the phone, quit hanging up and finally said that she wanted to come outside to speak to Vanderhoven. Vanderhoven continued to calm her down and rode along in the ambulance with the woman for safety reasons during transport to the Yavapai Regional Medical Center for mental health evaluation.

Certificate of Commendation Award Winners included Lt. Frank Barbara, Deputy Stephen Berry, Sgt. Michael Dannison, Sgt. Chris Myhre and Deputy Ethan Stover. A mental health clinician from the Prescott area nominated all of the officers

These deputies demonstrated great understanding of someone with a mental illness and employed techniques that are the accepted practices of trauma informed care. Their decision to take action by attempting to deescalate the crisis without the use of force showed real excellence by this team of officers. The decision to reach out to a mental health agency to provide crisis response showed a powerful collaboration between criminal justice and mental health community partners. Their will ingness to go so far as to not even handcuff the suicidal and distraught woman in order to convince her to turn to the officers for help rather than run from them in fear, was truly a display of excellence.

David's Hope Director and Founder Mary Lou Brncik stated, "Arizona Mental Health and Criminal Justice Coalition commend each and every officer here representing the Yavapai County Sheriff's Office, for your outstanding bravery and compassion.... We commend you for your willingness to seek every remedy in preventing tragedy and serving to facilitate linkages to effective and adequate mental health treatment for those with mental impairments. We commend you and thank you for your spirit of excellence which brought this incident to a peaceful end with no serious injury or loss of life."

Copyright 2015 The Camp Verde Journal, Camp Verde, Arizona. All Rights Reserved. This content, including derivations, may not be stored or distributed in any manner, disseminated, published, broadcast, rewritten or reproduced without express, written consent from SmallTownPapers, Inc.

Original Publication Date: October 21, 2015

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