The Gwinnett County Sheriff’s Office has announced the creation of a Mental Health Task Force.
The task force was created to de-stigmatizing mental illness and provide a path for intervention and advocacy to prevent those experiencing mental illness from entering the criminal justice system.
According to a news release on the task force, Gwinnett County Sheriff Keybo Taylor has been an advocate for decriminalizing residents experiencing mental illness and reforming behavioral health systems — the new task force is a step toward these objectives.
The personnel of the Mental Health Task Force consists of qualified and experienced specialists in the fields of criminal justice and clinical psychology. The unit commander of the task force is Lt. Trakida Maldonado. Maldonado brings more than 20 years of law enforcement experience to the task force, as well as her expertise as a licensed professional counselor and National Board Certified counselor with a specialty in cognitive behavioral therapy. Maldonado also has more than 10 years of clinical experience in crisis intervention, substance abuse and psychotherapy, as well as 11 years of experience as a behavioral specialist in the Emory Department of Emergency Healthcare.
Dr. Dana Tatum serves as the clinical director and program coordinator for the Mental Health Task Force. Tatum is an experienced clinician with more than three decades of experience across the country. He is nationally recognized as a lecturer and a forensic psychological consultant in criminal behavior, hostage negotiation and crisis intervention. Tatum also has more than 20 years of experience as a trainer to behavioral health clinicians, medical students and law enforcement.
To ensure a high level of expertise in mental health crisis situations, task force deputies will undergo extensive training in specialized areas such as crisis intervention and de-escalation skills, recognition of mental illnesses, personality disorders, psychopathy and other related areas. The team will be organized to respond to residents experiencing mental illness who present a crisis symptomatic of severe mental illness rather than apparent criminality. The task force will work closely with other local law enforcement agencies, the Gwinnett County judicial system and mental health treatment organizations within the community.
The task force will also work to combat the stigma surrounding mental illness through various education programs.