Police, other responders, want co-responses with MVCS

Chief Bruce McName told MVCS CEO Beth Focarelli Vineyard first responders want mental healthcare clinicians by their sides during mental healthcare calls.

Updated Nov. 8

Vineyard police have long wanted mental healthcare workers to join them on mental healthcare calls. Police, along with Vineyard fire and EMS services, have hoped Martha’s Vineyard Services (MVCS) could fill such a role. 

“Island police, fire, and EMS have long enjoyed a successful working relationship with MVCS,” Edgartown Police Chief Bruce McNamee said in a statement to The Times. “It is our hope that this relationship can be further expanded to involve MVCS participation during mental health calls for service in people’s homes, as these can be particularly volatile if not handled properly. The trend to ‘co-respond’ with mental health professionals and public safety working together is a growing trend across the country, and one that we would welcome here on the Island as well.”

Chief McNamee inquired about such a cooperative relationship in the field with MVCS at a recent MVCS mental healthcare briefing. 

“On behalf of the other department heads in public safety, we’re still looking for a time frame as to when we might be able to expect some kind of a co-response model with your agency,” Chief McNamee told MVCS officials. “We’re one of the few locations perhaps in the country that isn’t taking advantage of that sort of response to these volatile calls for service in people’s homes.”

“Every six months you and I circle back to this topic,” Beth Folcarelli, CEO of MVCS, said. “It is part of our strategic plan, our three-year plan.”

Folcarelli went on to say workforce developments like a new residency program may “deliver that model.”

Earlier the meeting Folcarelli noted MVCS had a high clinician attrition rate, and a residency program would go a long way to stanching such losses. However, she told Chief McNamee clinician numbers are insufficient presently. “So without the staffing, we’re not able to deliver the model.” she said. 

Folcarelli described the situation as an “excellent case in point of the mental health crisis in that if we’re not able or unsuccessful in our recruitment efforts, we don’t have the bandwidth to have clinicians out in the community.”

Folcarelli went on to say, “So I am very hopeful that this clinical residency program, as we bring in the new clinicians, five of them, to our service array, that they would be assigned into the enhanced urgent care, from which the co-response program is expected to launch. I don’t have a time frame on that. Wish I did. Wish I did have a magic wand on knowing when we would have people in-house and trained up and ready to do that, but it is on our plan.”

She also said MVCS believes partnering with law enforcement is “critical to early intervention.” Folcarelli said year one of the MVCS strategic plan is already done, so she expected to realize co-responses “more sooner than later.”

Updated to correct the surname spelling of the MVCS CEO.


  1. I hope MVCS finds a way to overcome obstacles preventing this collaboration soon. Thank you, Chief McName, for your persistence in trying to make this happen. This is critical, not only for the officers that are called upon in these difficult situations, but the individuals suffering who are in need of treatment for mental health issues.

  2. Chief McNamee has taken a leadership role on this very important issue for years. He and others have been advocating since the summer of 2020, and before, for mental health professional assistance to police on calls, where needed. He and the other island police chiefs know that a police call in which a person is having a mental health episode can end very badly without the mental health professional skills necessary to diffuse the situation safely. Police officers simply do not have the training to recognize and respond to a crisis involving a violent mental health situation.

    MVCS CEO Beth Focarelli has been very supportive of the concept but, as she said in this article, has been unable to implement such a program. Her words here reflect her commitment, but do not inspire confidence that MVCS will create this kind of support to law enforcement in the near future, or ever. Part of a “three year” strategic plan is not good enough.

    Although MVCS is the most logical place for this service to exist, there are other options. Eric Blake during his unsuccessful candidacy for sheriff promised to create a professional mental health entity within the sheriff’s office to assist police. This is a very promising idea because the sheriff is part of the law enforcement community and is an island-wide entity. But Sheriff Ogden said he was not interested in pursuing this. Not appropriate. Too expensive. Sheriff Ogden won the election.

    We need Beth Focarelli and Robert Ogden to figure this out — now. As Chief McNamee has made clear, there are police calls regularly in which mental health counselors are needed. It is just a matter of time before one of these incidents ends tragically. Will we wait to act until then?

  3. Police officers should not be responding to mental health issues unless there is a crime involved. Waste of resources.

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