Co-responders: Section 12 in practice

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PITTSFIELD — There are two types of Section 12 orders: those empowering first responders to transport a person to a hospital for a mental health evaluation, and those that commit a person to full mental health treatment against their will.

The latter kind can only be issued by a psychiatrist, while the former can be issued by a physician, nurse practitioner, psychologist, police officer, licensed independent clinical social worker, or a psychiatric nurse mental health clinical specialist.

The Section 12 orders issued under the partnership only require transport. It is then up to the staff at Berkshire Medical Center to evaluate the person and determine whether they should be admitted.

There have been about 450 Section 12 orders issued since the co-responder program started in 2017, resulting in 360 admissions.

Police officers can issue Section 12 orders for one of three reasons, including signs of violent behavior or suicidal behavior.

Those signs are more clear, Richard Collins said, and more swiftly result in Section 12 orders. The third criteria, though — "evidence that such person's judgment is so affected" that they're likely to bring harm to themselves — "that's a gray area."

"That's a hard judgment to make," he said.

As often as possible, Collins said, he can help officers avoid issuing a Section 12 by helping the person at their home.

"It takes all of us to help people," he said.

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