ST. ALBANS   — Sgt. Jason Wetherby of the St. Albans Police Dept. has been recognized by Team Two, a statewide program supporting collaboration between law enforcement and mental health professionals.

Wetherby was given the Team Two Frank Silfies Award on January 31, Mental Health Advocacy Day.

The Team Two Frank Silfies Award, created in 2015 and awarded annually, is presented to a law enforcement officer and a mental health crisis clinician who work collaboratively to respond to mental health crises.

Josh Cate, crisis service specialist for law enforcement at NCSS, nominated Wetherby for the award. Cate was hired at NCSS in 2014 and has worked with Wetherby as an embedded clinician for nearly three years.

The partnership between NCSS and the SAPD was created from the ground up in 2015, with help from Act 79 funding.

“At its base, the model is about collaborating with others to ensure safety for the community,” said Todd Bauman, executive director of NCSS.

Cate has over twenty years of experience working in human services, providing him with a unique lens for viewing incidents in the field and for recognizing individuals who truly understand how to approach challenging occurrences. Wetherby recognizes the value of the law enforcement/clinician model, and he has worked to assure its growth and utilization over the years, in Cate’s view.

“Sgt. Wetherby assists in facilitating the acquisition of mental health resources in efforts to create a supportive and positive outcome,” he said. “[His] level of collaboration with NCSS to seek effective outcomes for individuals experiencing a mental health crisis has been above and beyond his scope of duty.”

Wetherby said the knowledge gained from the department’s partnership with NCSS, such as being able to recognize the signs of an individual experiencing a mental health crisis, has been invaluable. “The training we get from working collaboratively has been priceless. I can see the difference across the department,” Wetherby said.

The purpose of the program is to more effectively aid individuals in crisis by drawing on NCSS’s expertise, while also protecting the public.

Law enforcement is often called first in a crisis because individuals may not know who else to call, Wetherby noted. A law enforcement approach may be the most fitting in certain situations. Other events may be better handled by a mental health clinician, such as Cate, who has the training to help de-escalate situations and can connect people with needed services.

“We’ve seen better outcomes based on the collaboration,” Wetherby said. “Everyone in the department is moving forward in the right direction.”

Wetherby has worked for the St. Albans City Police for thirteen years. He noted the program is not perfect, but he is optimistic that the collaboration efforts will continue to improve in the future.

“It was a surprise and an honor to receive this award,” said Wetherby.