CONWAY, Ark. — A second Community Crisis Response Team is now active in Conway after completing its training in early February. The Conway Police Department says it’s seeing success in partnering officers with social workers.

The first Community Crisis Response Team (CCRT) was formed in October 2022 to respond to anyone who may be suffering a mental health crisis.

Loading up from CCRT specially marked cars, you’ll always find two people. One Conway Police Department (CPD) officer and one social worker from behavioral health partner Arisa Health.

Officer Hannah Fleming and care coordinator Jarvis Carrigan formed the first team. Responding specifically to mental health calls, each brings his or her own strengths.

“She can let me know, ‘Hey I’ve dealt with them before. This is how they interact with officers,” Carrigan said.

“You kind of get cynical about dealing with the same people, but with him (Carrigan) not knowing anything about it, he’ll be like, ‘Well, maybe this is why they’re acting like that.’ And I’m like, yeah, you’re probably right,” Officer Fleming admitted.

Since October 2022, CCRT has responded to 422 calls. 319 of those calls were actual contacts with who they were able to provide help versus showing up and realizing they weren’t needed. 339 referrals and 105 follow-up contacts have been made.

Team supervisor and Conway Police Lieutenant Andrew Johnson says the most dangerous responses are still handled by patrolmen.

“We’re doing our best to be as preventative as we can to where it’s not to the point of suicidal, homicidal or not taking care of themselves,” Johnson explained.

Both teams have 160 hours of training to be able to identify needs, de-escalate a situation, and then make phone calls to connect people with the proper resource, and in some cases even take them there.

“Say we need to take someone to a shelter that is outside of Conway, we can do that. Where a normal patrolman wouldn’t be able to do that,” Carrigan said.

“It’s meeting the needs of that person but doing it significantly more quickly than if a patrol officer shows up and says nobody broke the law, I’ll see you later, I don’t know what do with this. Maybe you should go call somebody else.” Johnson added.

Johnson said the department has noticed a lower number of suicide risk calls since the agency started CCRT. With a second team’s launch in early February, they hope to do even more checking in with those they’ve already helped.

Fleming said the youngest people she helps in their early 20s or teenage years are what sticks with her the most.

“We call them back like three weeks later and they’re like, ‘I’m doing great. I got my life is on track, going to school, got a new job.’ Those are few and far between doing this. But that’s what keeps me going,” Fleming said.

The Community Crisis Response Teams were created through a three-year $542,000 Department of Justice grant for “co-responder crisis intervention.”

The Conway Police Department applied for the grant in July of 2021 and was notified that it was one of 36 agencies nationwide selected to receive the grant in January 2022. Lt. Johnson communicated CPD was the only Arkansas recipient.