Southampton County Sheriff’s Office begins mental health initiative

Published 4:15 pm Wednesday, October 4, 2023

The Southampton County Sheriff’s Office has expanded the services it provides to the public to include a program offering aid to those suffering from mental illness.

An SCSO news release noted that a member of the sheriff’s office attended training earlier this year that included the topic of law enforcement response to persons experiencing a mental health crisis. Different programs and ideas were discussed as part of a larger conversation on providing the best response to these types of calls for service.  

Connections were made with personnel at larger agencies that have dedicated mental health units. These connections were made to discuss their policies, best practices and lessons learned from these new programs. 

SCSO officials stated, “Although we are a smaller agency than some of the departments that have already instituted these types of programs, members of our agency have been working diligently to get this program up and running to provide the best possible service to members of our community who may be experiencing a mental health crisis.”  

The Southampton County Sheriff’s Office Community Action Team (CAT) started visiting and working with individuals in the community in August of this year. The team consists of members of the sheriff’s office, the Department of Social Services, and fire and rescue personnel.  

The CAT and its members will conduct regular visits with those who have been identified as suffering from a mental health disorder to check in with these individuals when they are not experiencing a crisis. The team will also be familiar with and coordinate visits with the individual’s family, friends and caretakers to keep the lines of communication open. These visits will serve to make sure individuals and their support networks are aware of the local and state resources that may be available to them and to establish a connection with them outside of a crisis response.  

Capt. Serena White, with the sheriff’s office, stated, “Our goal is to show those suffering from mental illness that it is safe to call law enforcement whether you are just having a bad day or need someone to talk to and don’t want to be alone.” 

Participation with the CAT is completely voluntary and confidential, and there is absolutely no cost or fee associated for participants. 

Sheriff Josh A. Wyche Sr. said, “I’m excited about this new program. I hope this will help our citizens by filling some of the gaps in existing services for mental health in Virginia. I applaud Capt. Serena White for learning about these types of programs and bringing that information back to our agency to be implemented. I also want to thank each of the deputies that will be a part of this team that have volunteered for this in addition to their regular duties.”

At the conclusion of the release, SCSO officials stated, “If you think you or someone you know may benefit from this program, please contact Capt. White at the Southampton County Sheriff’s Office by calling 757-653-2100, or you can send an email to cat@shso.org.”