Buckhannon Police Chief Matt Gregory and peer liaison Erica Bennett

Buckhannon Police Department adds peer liaison

BUCKHANNON — First Choice Services, a Charleston-based nonprofit that provides helpline services for several mental health and social service programs, is partnering with the Buckhannon Police Department to add a new component to its crisis response system.

FCS will provide a peer liaison to assist with law enforcement calls involving mental health or substance use crises. A peer in recovery is someone who is in long-term recovery from substance use disorder and is trained to offer professional support and referral to those seeking treatment for behavioral health or substance use disorder.

According to the American Psychological Association, at least 20% of police calls involve substance use or mental health crisis. 

Chief Matt Gregory thinks the placement of a peer liason will make a real difference in Buckhannon.

He said, “We are excited to partner with First Choice Services on this opportunity.  We believe that having a Peer Recovery Support Specialist embedded with the Buckhannon Police Department will be a tremendous asset for our community as it will connect people experiencing substance use disorder, homelessness, or behavioral issues with critical resources all with the goal of returning them to wellness.”

Erica Bennett is the first BPD Peer Liaison. Erica, who is a graduate of the Upshur/Lewis County Drug Court program, has been in recovery for five years and has experience in behavioral health and substance use services.

After spending two weeks training in Charleston, she is officially in her new role at the BPD. She says the community and the officers at at BPD have all been welcoming and supportive of her role.

She said, “I am very blessed to not only tell people that recovery is possible, but to show them. I have been in and out of jails and institutions, been homeless, and had my life saved by Narcan multiple times. Today, I have a life that I could have never imagined! Going from someone who was incarcerated to someone who is now working with law enforcement is an amazing experience.”

The West Virginia Bureau for Behavioral Health provides the grant for this partnership as part of the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline funding. The vision for 988 is to build a robust crisis care system across the country that links people who contact the lifeline with a full range of crisis services, including tools and resources to prevent future crises.

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