The Front Line Initiative and its member police departments were pleased to share in a recent presentation to U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton that the regional mental-health collaborative saved taxpayers in member communities over $8 million.
The Front Line Initiative is a collaborative effort between Billerica Police, Chelmsford Police, Dracut Police, Tewksbury Police and Tyngsborough Police aimed at providing a direct connection to holistic, trauma-informed behavioral health and substance use disorder resources.
In the past three years, the Front Line Initiative has made 5,835 referrals for mental health services, diverted 1,431 individuals from unnecessary emergency room visits, and diverted 948 individuals from arrest.
Check out the Carnation’s interview with Matthew Page-Shelton, regional director of The Front Line Initiative.
Those diversions saved taxpayers in member communities and estimated $5.72 million on unnecessary emergency room visits and an estimated $2.37 million on unnecessary arrests, all while also providing services to individuals who are not involved with police.
“The Frontline Initiative is a compassionate, effective, and transformative approach to policing,” said Moulton. “The results clearly show that this program works, not just because it saves taxpayers’ money, but also because it forces us to treat mental health and substance use as health issues, not crimes. Not to mention, this collaborative demonstrates that when professionals who are trained to handle crises work in tandem with the police, communities are better and safer for it.”
“Police officers in the 21st century are on the front lines of our nation’s mental health crisis, and we must adjust our strategies, training, and resources to do our best for individuals who are facing mental health issues, and our communities,” said Tewksbury Police Chief Ryan Columbus. “The Front Line Initiative is an innovative, collaborative effort to take a community-focused leadership role in modern policing, and we are seeing truly groundbreaking results as a result of the work that is being done.”
Formed as a local program in Tewksbury in 2011 — then known as the Bridge Outreach Program — The Front Line Initiative became a regional partnership in 2016, and launched a rebranded, data-driven co-response program in all five member communities in 2018.
The collaborative expanded dramatically thanks to seven new grants received since 2019, increasing staff from two to 13 employees and expanding programming.
“We had high hopes when we teamed up and launched this collaborative effort in 2016, and we are seeing real results and life-changing outcomes for individuals who reach out or get referred for help,” said Tyngsborough Police Chief Richard Howe. “Its an incredible asset to responding officers to have mental health clinicians who can co-respond with them thanks to the Front Line Initiative. I am proud that the Tyngsborough Police Department is part of this effort.”
Programs provided by the Front Line Initiative now include:
Prevention — Staff members engage with community groups, schools and civic organizations to help raise awareness and share resources to help those facing behavioral health or substance use disorder issues.
Crisis Response — Clinicians respond along with police when individuals are in crisis to help divert patients from unnecessary emergency room visits and unnecessary arrests.
Recovery Support — Staff members provide ongoing access to recovery programs, resources and supports in both individual and group formats.
Training — Staff members provide a wide variety of training for police officers and community members, including on mental health first aid.
The presentation to Rep. Moulton was part of an ongoing outreach effort being conducted by Front Line Initiative Executive Director Matthew Page-Shelton to share news of the collaborative’s services and data on the collaborative’s results in member communities.
“Community policing is about far more than just making arrests. It’s also about working with local partners and other stakeholders to provide resources to the community, and working to prevent and address issues before arrests are necessary,” said Chelmsford Police Chief James Spinney. “This kind of collaborative effort helps us ensure that individuals in need will get follow-up care, information and treatment that can help change their lives for the better.”
“This groundbreaking program enables us to contribute to our community in a hugely important way by helping to ensure those facing mental health issues have access to follow up care and resources,” said Dracut Police Chief Peter Bartlett. “I’m pleased the Dracut Police Department can be part of this effort to offer resources to our community.”
Individuals do not have to be involved with police to be referred to the Front Line Initiative’s programs, which are available to everyone in member communities regardless of insurance, socioeconomic status, gender identity, sexual preference, age, or race.
“We are extremely thankful to be a part of the Front Line Initiative. The entire Billerica community has benefited from the robust resources this initiative has provided,” said Billerica Police Deputy Chief Roy Frost. “Whether it be through co-response or follow-up with a certified Mental Health Clinician, or through improved access to specialized Crisis Intervention Training for our sworn officers, we have seen increasingly positive outcomes for individuals suffering from a crisis.”
To access services provided by the Front Line Initiative, please call the Clinical Support Team at 978-215-9642. The service is accessible 24/7. In case of an emergency, please call 911.
To access a variety of behavioral health and substance use disorder resources compiled by the Front Line Initiative online in partnership with Credible Mind, click here.