LOWELL — Acting Superintendent Barry Golner and the Lowell Police Department report that Co-Response Jail Diversion Clinicians Courtney Motuzas and Mackenzie Dezieck have partnered with police officers to divert 78 people from arrest or involuntary emergency room visits since July 2021.
Co-Response clinicians provide city residents facing mental health crises and trauma with an immediate, on-scene support system and follow-up resources.
“The mental health crisis has posed an enormous challenge to law enforcement and first responders, so I could not be more grateful for the compassionate and professional work of Mackenzie and Courtney, the grant funding that enabled us to launch this program, and the teamwork and rapport that is being built between our clinicians and sworn officers,” said Acting Superintendent Golner. “This program is effective, compassionate, and part of a vitally needed response to a growing issue.”
The Lowell Police Department’s Co-Response Jail Diversion Program was launched in July 2021, thanks to grant funding from the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health and the U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Assistance.
Motuzas and Dezieck diverted 22 individuals from arrest since July of 2021. Using a formula from the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health, those diversions saved the criminal justice system an estimated $55,440. They diverted 56 individuals from unnecessary emergency room visits. Using a formula from the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health, those diversions saved the health care system $224,000.
Lowell Police partners with Advocates, Inc. of Framingham, which works with individuals, families and agencies to develop creative solutions for those who face developmental, mental health, or other life challenges.
The program’s primary goal is to re-direct individuals committing non-violent offences out of the criminal justice system and into more appropriate community-based behavioral health services. A secondary goal is to decrease the frequency of individuals with behavioral health conditions being referred to a hospital emergency department for psychiatric assessment by Lowell police officers.
Dezieck was hired about a year ago and Motuzas was hired in January. Having two, full-time clinicians enables a clinician to be on duty every day from noon to 10 p.m. — hours that were set after an analysis of the type and volume of calls received by Lowell Police.
Motuzas and Dezieck are both Masters level clinicians who co-respond with Lowell officers to calls for service involving mental health, domestic violence, substance abuse, sudden deaths, or any other calls at which officers believe their skills may be helpful.
Clinicians Dezieck and Motuzas are available to assist at calls involving SWAT teams; Dezieck earlier this year helped support a patient involved in an incident where a SWAT team was called as a precaution. Though a specially trained negotiator and the individual’s own therapist were on scene, Dezieck’s training helped her connect with the individual and bring the incident to a safe conclusion without use of force.
“We have special training that prepares us to be there at that high peak time of a crisis,” Dezieck said. “We also assist with death notifications and can provide support to family members.”
“It doesn’t have to be a mental health call,” Motuzas said. “We have training that can help at car accidents, sudden deaths, and pretty much any situation where someone is facing a traumatic situation and needs support.”
Dezieck has a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Roger Williams University, and a Master’s degree in Rehabilitation Counseling from Assumption University. She has previously worked with the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission, the Peace Corps, and as a Jail Diversion Clinician for a consortium of police departments that includes Acton, Bedford, Concord, Lexington and Stow.
Motuzas has a Bachelor’s degree in Human Services and Rehabilitation Studies from Assumption University, and a Master’s degree in Social Work from Salem State University. She has worked in the mental health field in residential care facilities, group homes, and at the state Department of Correction, where she worked in a maximum-security prison.
“One of the reasons I do this work is that I met quite a few adults who probably wouldn’t be in the current situation that they’re in if they had contact with a jail diversion program,” said Motuzas.
Dezieck volunteered for three years with the Peace Corps in Fiji, where she worked closely with individuals in remote communities. It was there she began to see the power of providing support face-to-face.
“I think really getting down on that level, instead of helping from afar, was really beneficial for those I was trying to help, and that’s where the roots were for how I ended up here,” Dezieck said.
Dezieck said working side by side with patrol officers has also made an impact, because of the conversations and teamwork that have occurred and continue to build.
“I’m constantly impressed already by the way police handle mental health calls. They’re doing what they can with the knowledge that they have to help people, and a lot of officers have welcomed this program with open arms and asked a lot of questions,” Dezieck said. “When I’m out there with them we’re having conversations when we’re not at calls. We’re talking about mental health and how to approach people, and they’re all ears, and I learn a lot about what they do too so there’s a constant flow of learning and education between us as we build our relationships.”
Motuzas said she hopes her work can help residents realize that police help the community, and not just arrest or detain people.
“We’re here to help support the community in any way that we can be supportive,” Motuzas said. “We’re not on duty 24/7 yet, but this is a new and exciting program and I think it has the potential to make a lot of positive change.”