Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office (PBSO) deputies handle approximately 3,700 mental health cases every year – or about 10 to 12 cases per day. One in fourteen county jail inmates receive psychiatric medication, and four new inmates are admitted every day into the county jail’s mental health ward. Due to funding cuts over the last thirty years, a growing number of law enforcement officers are on the front lines of Florida’s mental health crisis. Sheriff Bradshaw recognized this problem before it became an issue and made significant investments into mental health reform to ensure Palm Beach County was prepared. He responded by creating the Behavioral Sciences Unit, where deputies and caseworkers would respond to calls of people behaving strangely. After the call comes in, a deputy with either a Master’s degree or a Doctorate, a caseworker, and a clinician would respond to check on the person.
An assessment would be made by a qualified professional with the training to evaluate the situation and recommend ways for the individual to get help. These mental health teams are the first of their kind, and they serve as a model for other agencies across the country on how to deal with mental health challenges and law enforcement. Sheriff Bradshaw has testified before Congress, the Florida legislature, and law enforcement conferences across the nation on new approaches the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office is taking in dealing with the growing number of calls they get involving mental health. Sheriff Bradshaw has plans to expand his mental health teams, as the program has been met with community praise.