The City of Carmel intends to help address the mental health needs of the community by creating a new full-time position within the Camel Fire Dept.
The mental health coordinator position is the only new position proposed in CFD’s 2021 budget, which was presented to the Carmel City Council along with several other department budgets at a Sept. 15 workshop. The council is expected to vote on the full budget in October.
Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard said the mental health coordinator should be someone with a background in psychology who can help provide initial analysis when first responders receive a mental health call. The coordinator also will help the patient navigate available resources.
CFD Chief David Haboush said the new coordinator will be available to assist any city department in handling mental health situations.
“This would not be one-size-fits-all but a moving, flexible program so that if there was an unmet need in the community, that person could help advocate for the family and the patient and the victim,” Haboush said.
Brainard said Carmel’s first responders often respond to calls that involve mental health emergencies but that they don’t always have the training and resources to fully assess the situation.
Haboush said the police department has the ability to take a person with a mental health issue who has threatened harm to a hospital, where they can be detained for 72 hours and given a psychological evaluation. Often, the patients are soon released back into the same home environment, and responders are called out again, he said.
“It’s almost like a tape reel. We go back out and do the exact same things,” Haboush said. “What we’re trying to do with this program is intervene and change that cycle.”
The mental health coordinator would make between $61,057 and $73,269 per year plus benefits.
Other changes in the CFD budget include a $111,000 bump in funds for special department supplies to create an infectious disease strategic stockpile and $70,000 to fund the tactical athlete program, which is currently funded by Clay Township. It also includes $66,500 to rent shower facilities and administrative storage for the remodeling of Station 41, which is set to begin in the spring of 2021.