- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 25, 2014

BEDFORD, Texas (AP) - The first time officer Monique Hall met Amy Cook, she was in a hospital bed recovering from a suicide attempt.

Cook spent a combined 35 days in two hospitals before being released.

Soon after, she began meeting with officers from the Bedford Police Department’s Repeat Victimization Unit, who worked with Cook and persuaded her to take medications to help control her mental disability.

She lost weight, stopped using illegal drugs and alcohol and began sleeping six hours a night. None of that would have happened without the help of Bedford police, Cook said.

“It was not a good thing I did but I’m glad I did it,” said Cook, whose name has been changed to protect her identity. “If I hadn’t done it (the suicide attempt) I’d probably be going back to JPS (hospital) or dead or maybe I would’ve been sent to Wichita Falls” state mental hospital.

Bedford police Chief Roger Gibson said he created the unit about three years ago to help break a pattern that was becoming all too familiar in the Fort Worth suburb. Police were repeatedly arresting the same people for the same problems, Gibson said.

“We had officers who did not have the opportunity to deal with the underlying causes of the issues they were facing,” Gibson told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram (http://bit.ly/1fCnQu1 ). “We would walk out of these houses having done our job and not having made the situation any better for the next officer who had to come to that house.”

Gibson said he believed that if officers could get mentally handicapped people and their families to work with them - really sit down and listen and seek out solutions and community resources - they could reduce the number of people they funneled into the Tarrant County Jail and area hospitals.

He found three - Cpl. Shane Bean and officers Onay Nunez and Monique Hall - and the unit was born.

The officers, accompanied by mental health professionals, visit residents to make sure they are current with their medications and therapy. They listen to the problems that teens might be having at school, and maybe give a kid a ride to a football game if Mom or Dad is busy.

“It’s like community policing on steroids,” said Bean, the victimization unit supervisor.

Ken Bennett, a liaison officer for Mental Health Mental Retardation of Tarrant County, accompanies officers when they are making house calls in Bedford and trains officers in crisis intervention and mental health evaluation techniques.

The classes teach officers how to document and categorize symptoms of a mental disability, Bennett said.

“We have case after case of people who have talked about trying to shoot officers before who are now welcoming them into their homes,” Bennett said. “The more we show up on scene the better those interactions become. These officers want to know that when these people are released they are stabilized. I think bringing the police in at this level is instrumental in having a good outcome.”

Bean said the numbers showing that the program might be working are slowly starting to materialize.

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