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SACO, Maine — Several Maine police departments have been hiring mental health professionals to help alleviate the load on officers and direct people in crisis to the help they need faster and more efficiently.
Saco is the latest department to contract with Spurwink to add a community engagement specialist. The role is designed to help people who need resources like housing, food, or mental health support. Shannon Bentley started with the department at the beginning of March.
“Most people with mental illness are not dangerous,” Bentley said. “A lot of it is co-responding with police to mental health calls or substance use calls or really anything. There is so much more needed in the mental health world.”
Bentley also helps follow up with people that officers interact with overnight. She has worked in crisis response in Kennebec, Somerset and Cumberland counties.
Saco police Chief Jack Clements said Bentley’s work is already making a difference.