GREAT BARRINGTON -- Chief William Walsh is pleased to announce that the Great Barrington Police Department has taken a major step toward providing critical resources for those suffering from mental illness.

The department has partnered with The Brien Center for Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services to make mental health clinician Ivy Goodwin available at the police station for two days each week. While on duty with Great Barrington Police, she will serve as a co-responder to calls in which an individual displays signs that they are affected by a mental illness.

In that role, Goodwin will assist people in crisis, outline services available to those in need, complete follow-up visits with residents to ensure they are receiving all of the help available to them. The professional clinician will often respond to mental health-related calls in order to expedite the process of connecting those in need with appropriate resources.

The Mental Health Co-Responder Program is designed to increase earlier identification and intervention for citizens with mental illness who have contact with law enforcement. The goal is to decrease the likelihood that those individuals will be arrested and enter into the criminal justice system because of behaviors related to their mental illness.

With the implementation of the co-responder program, the Great Barrington Police Department will better position itself as a resource for the community at large by providing immediate and effective evaluation of individuals' mental health needs and how they can be fulfilled.

"Having a trained mental health professional on our team will provide our department with an invaluable resource that could ultimately save lives," Chief Walsh said. "While our officers undergo extensive training to develop their deescalation skills and improve their interactions with those suffering from mental health challenges, the clinician is best equipped to help people in need."

The Brien Center is a community-based, nonprofit agency with a 95-plus year history of providing a continuum of care for children, adolescents, adults and families who are living with significant and persistent behavioral health disorders.

The Egremont, Sheffield and Monterey Police Departments, as well as Southern Berkshire District Court, have joined the partnership with the Great Barrington Police Department and the Brien Center, taking a proactive approach to mental health in their communities.

Goodwin will have office space at the police station, where she'll typically work from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

(press release sent to WSBS from the Great Barrington Police Department for online and on-air use)