Social worker discusses law enforcement response to mental health calls amid recent deadly deputy-involved shooting

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Thursday, August 20, 2020
Social worker talks law enforcement response to mental health calls
A Fayetteville group is continuing its call for an emphasis on incorporating de-escalation tactics and re-evaluating the way mental health calls are approached by law enforcement, especially in light of a deputy-involved shooting.

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (WTVD) -- The latest deadly deputy-involved shooting in Cumberland County has led to questions about law enforcement responding to mental health calls.

ABC11 reached out to Alida Mason, a clinical social worker and owner of the Haymount Institute of Psychology Services, to gain some insight on these kind of calls that can, many times, be very unpredictable.

"It's very difficult for both sides, and the reactions can be impulsive," Mason noted.

On Tuesday evening, according to the Cumberland County Sheriff's Office, deputies were serving an "involuntary commitment order" around 5 p.m. They say Adrian Roberts, 37, charged at them with a machete. This led to one deputy firing his weapon, striking Robert, who died from his injuries when EMS arrived.

Family and eyewitnesses, that ABC11 spoke to on the scene, say that Roberts was an Army veteran who suffered with mental illness, including PTSD.

RELATED: Cumberland Co. deputy serving involuntary commitment order shoots, kills Army veteran who they say charged with machete

Investigators said they were trying to serve an involuntary commitment order on the man when he charged at deputies with a machete.

Mason describes the kind of mindset someone can be going through, enduring that kind of disorder. "People are not clear thinking, and PTSD can become very, very, very severe".

The clinical social worker says the individual can become paranoid, especially those with a military background, causing them to be on edge.

Members of the Fayetteville Police Accountability Community Taskforce, including co-founder and president Cathy Greggs, says this incident struck a nerve.

"I feel, as though, we need to really do something about our response, when it comes to mental health, in this community," Greggs said.

Greggs's group has been fighting for police accountability, and emphasis on incorporating de-escalation tactics and re-evaluating the way mental health calls are approached, especially in this latest incident.

"Why wasn't Alliance contacted for this? Because they can stabilize, they have been trained to stabilize and intervene for adults and children," Chermaleta Brown, a mental health advocate at Butterflies and Pearls and partner with Fayetteville P.A.C.T., said.

Mason says officers or deputies would be better suited for these kind of calls if there was a policy to always have a crisis response team to help diffuse those situations.

"What I've learned in 42 years of mental health, is that, very often, if they have a choice between going with a mental health emergency worker with an ambulance or the police car, they're going to go peacefully," Mason added.

ABC11 reached out to the sheriff's office for a comment regarding their approach to mental health calls and procedures. A spokesperson says they cannot comment at this time.