Shocking deaths put spotlight on mental health resources in Cumberland County

Monique John Image
Thursday, May 4, 2023
Shocking deaths put focus on mental health resources in Cumberland Co.
EMBED <>More Videos

In the wake of a murder-suicide involving a police officer, the Fayetteville Police Department says it places an emphasis on officer wellness.

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (WTVD) -- A high-profile case of deadly domestic violence sent shockwaves through communities in the Sandhills. The State Bureau of Investigation declared the deaths of a Fayetteville police officer and his wife a murder-suicide.

A friend of that Fayetteville police officer, Domingo Tavarez-Rodriguez, told ABC11 that Tavarez-Rodriguez, a military veteran, had struggled with PTSD.

Though the investigation is still ongoing in the officer's case and details remain unclear, mental health has been recognized as a significant issue in law enforcement. The National Alliance on Mental Illness said nearly 1 in 4 police officers have thoughts of suicide at some point in their lifetimes.

The Fayetteville police department issued a statement saying:

"The Fayetteville Police Department places an emphasis on Officer Wellness and encourages all personnel to seek counseling when needed. The FPD contracted with Heart to Heart Counseling and Wellness, who makes themselves available for appointments as well as responding after a critical incident. Critical incidents can take on many forms and it is important to make sure we are addressing the needs of all personnel. In addition to the services of Heart to Heart Counseling, counseling is available through the City of Fayetteville's Employee Assistance Program (EAP). The Fayetteville Police Department's Chaplain program also provides counseling services when requested and responding to critical incidents for all personnel."

Cumberland County officials are also pointing vulnerable residents to available resources. Alliance Health offers support for mental health, developmental disabilities and substance abuse for the uninsured and those with Medicaid. Meanwhile, the city of Fayetteville is working to open an Office for Community Safety and Mental Health that has been championed by local activists. The goal is to make the city of Fayetteville's mental health support alongside the county's more accessible.

"The way it exists right now, folks are waiting until it becomes an emergency situation where laws have been broken, people have been violently harmed before they call 911 to deal with a mental health crisis," said Fayetteville City Council Member Mario Benavente. "That system is broken as far as I'm concerned. What we need to have is a way for members of the community to respond to someone in crisis or someone that are starting to show signs that they need some help well before it becomes sort of an emergency."

Cape Fear Valley's Behavioral Health Care is also a resource for mental wellness in Cumberland County. The entity offers inpatient and outpatient mental health services.