Winthrop and State Police were forced to evacuate the neighborhood around Overlook Drive Sunday evening as officers responded to a mental health matter.
Police got a call around 5:30 pm Sunday of a man that was having a mental health crisis. The man, already known to Winthrop Police, reportedly armed himself with a knife, adorned a bullet proof vest and barricaded himself inside his Overlook Drive home.
Winthrop and State Police evacuated residents in the neighborhood and closed down Revere Street from Crest Avenue to Shirley Street.
Special police units were brought to the scene and after seven hours of negotiations with the suspect the standoff peacefully ended Monday early morning.
Winthrop Police Chief Terrence Delehanty said Sunday’s incident has put a spotlight on the need to increase state and federal funding to mental health programs across the nation.
“This was certainly a mental health crisis and a failure of the mental health system,” said Chief Delehanty. “We have dealt with this individual numerous times and clinicians pushed him back into the community, probably sooner than he should have been. We can’t get clinicians to come out and help us during these crises even though that’s what they’re supposed to be doing with their best team and staff. The best team that night didn’t want to get involved in this incident so we had to rely on the State Police negotiators and local public health teams as well as our shift offices to deal with this mental health crisis for about seven hours.”
Delehanty said underfunded mental health programs in the state put a strain on his force’s resources.
“The whole thing with police reform is to make sure that police officers don’t kick in doors and take out and arrest mental health patients but then they don’t give us any alternatives to address those issues by sending mental health professionals to the scene,” he said. “We saw failures in the past early on in the opioid epidemic but the governor and state certainly stepped up and made sure there was funding for beds and recovery programs. Now we have a mental health crisis. We need to start looking at and working towards addressing this crisis and the gaps in services that exist when it comes to mental health,”
Delehanty said he has reached out to state elected officials of the need to address mental health.
“I’ve reached out to our Senator and Representative, who are always ready and willing to speak to me about these issues, and they’re aware of my concerns,” he said. “I’m sure they will be addressing those concerns on a state level because that’s where the money needs to come from.”
In the end Delehanty said he was proud of his officers and the State Police, as well as Winthrop’s local mental health response team, for resolving the incident peacefully. “I could not have asked for a better group of officers to respond to that scene, and certainly their patience and the willingness to wait it out,” said Delehanty. “There was incredible restraint by the officers that were on the scene, as well as the additional officers who were called in to make sure we had services for the rest of the community that night. In the end it worked out very well. The State Police sent a great group that worked with us. Everyone had the same philosophy of “Let’s get this gentleman to come out on his own”. Our Public health Director Meredith Hurley, her social worker and my lieutenant assigned to their office all showed up and were a great help because they already had a relationship developed with this particular individual.”