Mental health expert to join some police calls in Hatfield, Sunderland, Whately

Hatfield Town Hall,  2019

Hatfield Town Hall, 2019


Staff Writer

Published: 11-05-2023 11:00 AM

HATFIELD — A part-time behavioral health clinician is expected to soon join police officers on certain calls handled by the Hatfield, Sunderland and Whately police departments.

With grant funding received by Sunderland from the state’s Department of Mental Health for the regional co-responder, the three communities will get 24 hours per week coverage from the caseworker who is hired.

Hatfield’s Select Board recently discussed signing a memorandum of understanding that would provide the police department the professional services from Clinical and Support Options and be similar to what many other police departments are doing.

Lt. Clinton Phillips said about 120 calls annually in Hatfield, and 300 to 400 calls in the region for the three towns, could use the assistance of someone with mental health expertise.

“We felt as if a clinical support person would have been a good person to have during those calls with us,” Phillips said.

The advertisement placed by CSO states, “This position will provide urgent evaluation, crisis assessments and interventions to individuals experiencing a mental health emergency. The Co-Response Clinician is embedded in a police agency and responds with law enforcement to 911 and calls for services to people in the community who are experiencing a crisis.”

Because it is not full time, the person would rotate through the three towns one day per week. During that day, the co-responder would be in the field or at the station in one town, but would be transported to one of the other communities when there is a need there.

Phillips explained part of the work. “They can actually do an initial interview there, just as they would do at a hospital,” Phillips said.

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The grant provides up to $13,582.50 in wages in each community from Nov. 1 through June 30.

“This is where a lot of policing is going,” said Phillips, who has been in law enforcement for 20 years. “To have this opportunity, I think it’s going to be very beneficial.”

Day Pond improvements

In other business, the Select Board endorsed the Hatfield Fish & Game Club application to the Community Preservation Act Committee to pay for improvements to Day Pond, the body of water that has been the site of an annual youth fishing derby for 80 years.

The board also formed a subcommittee that includes Bryan Nicholas, president of the club, club members Ed Jaworski, who is also on the Select Board, Mike Szych, and a Smith Academy student, perhaps one involved in the fly fishing club

The idea is for the pond, located at Smith Academy, to be improved, with a walking path around it already staked out, and perhaps senior citizens to drop by to feed the ducks.

The CPA account already provided $10,000 for a study, which Nicholas said found no contamination, only slight traces of solvent, but in parts per billion that doesn’t trigger reporting requirements by the state’s Department of Environmental Protection.

The next step is to move along the permitting process, such as the water quality permit form the state that would be needed for removal of sediment, and a notice of intent filing with the town’s Conservation Commission because work takes place in a wetland.

A survey will also be done to make sure the pond is on town or school-owned land. “We’re going to have to do survey work in and around the pond, and make sure we own the pond,” Nicholas said.

Work might not begin until 2025, at the earliest.

“We’re not going to be into construction for about a year and half, under the best of circumstances at this point,” Nicholas said.

The end result could promote a larger fish population in the pond, with a hopes for a solar-powered aeration system to keep the pond healthy year round. Skating might also be possible in the winter.

“It could be a really nice recreational asset here in town,” said Select Board Chairwoman Diana Szynal.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at