Dr. Paul Turner, a psychologist for Connecticut Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, said working hand in hand with the Greenwich Police Department is inevitable.
“We find ourselves working with many of the same individuals with psychological distress,” Turner said at the department’s Stamford offices. “As the first to arrive, they began asking us to rendezvous in the field, working with clients registered with the agency.”
Turner works alongside Robert Roqueta, a community clinician, and Jeffrey Hodnicki, a clinical social worker, as liaisons between mentally disturbed individuals and the police. Unlike other social service agencies, they make house calls.
“We’ve had calls where people say they are infested with bugs. It’s a somatic illness and in their homes we see their lives are in shambles around them,” said Hodnicki.
They said the cases they deal with are as varied as Greenwich residents, including young adults first experiencing mental illness and those who are under acute stress from sudden reversals of economic circumstances.
“In some of the more financially well-to-do communities like Greenwich, there’s an assumption that these things don’t occur in our backyard,” said Turner, adding the spectrum of mental illness spans all ethnic, racial and age groups. “We do have people in public housing, we have people in gated palatial homes and at any given point we could be called to work with people on either end of the economic spectrum.”
The trio does field mental status examinations in which they assess a person’s state of mind, including cognitive abilities, and determine on the spot what level of care is needed.
“It’s fun, it’s fulfilling and a rewarding job because it’s always interesting, every day, and we don’t have to deal with as much negative as the police deal with,” said Hodnicki. “We don’t sanction people for breaking the law. It’s a medical delivery system, and we’re just trying to help people.”