Officials from City of Doraville and City of Dunwoody announced on May 16 that they signed a contract with DeKalb Community Service Board (CSB) to share a licensed behavioral health clinician to assist the cities’ police departments.
The clinician will be part of a new co-responder program the cities are sharing that provides police officers with expertise and support when responding to calls involving a mental health crisis.
“This program gives our officers access to an expert to help recognize and de-escalate situations while also providing important resources,” said Dunwoody Police Chief Billy Grogan. “We look forward to this important partnership with Doraville Police.”
A news releases states that the clinician assigned to the police departments is Gregory Lazzara, who began his new role in late April. A spokesperson said Lazzara has a master’s degree in community counseling from Concordia University Chicago and that he has worked for the past 10 years in crisis management, crisis intervention, and de-escalation.
“Our partnership with Dunwoody Police enables us to provide a greater level of service and support to our community,” said Doraville Police Chief Chuck Atkinson. “We’re pleased to welcome Mr. Lazzara and look forward to learning from him and his experiences.”
Under the new contract, CSB will contribute $33,400 toward the cost in the first year and $16,600 in the second year. City of Dunwoody’s cost for the first year is $81,020.12, and City of Doraville’s cost for the first year is $16,653.00. The cost was divided based on population, according to the news release.
“This partnership will give our police department the resources they need to provide care to those in our community who are often in the greatest need, creating a healthier and safer city for all our residents,” said Doraville Mayor Joseph Geierman.
Dunwoody Police Department began a similar program in 2022 through a contract with View Point Health, but a city spokesperson said the department struggled to maintain staffing for the position. Dunwoody City Council approved American Rescue Plan funding to pay for the program.
“The co-responder will assist officers in the field and improve the quality of life for our community as a whole,” added Mayor Lynn Deutsch. “This contract with the DeKalb CSB is a vital step in ensuring the safety and well-being of our community.”
Other local police departments have made similar changes in recent years.
Brookhaven Police Department was the first police department in DeKalb to sign a contract with mental health experts when it formed a partnership with Behavioral Health Link in October of 2020. The partnership gives the department mental health professionals for 40 hours a week who can respond to calls for service and conduct follow-up intervention within the community.
Chamblee, Decatur, and other local police departments have also made changes to address mental health in recent years.