BANGOR, Maine — Nearly two months after retiring from his position as the Bangor Police Department’s mental health liaison, David Tremble is poised to return — this time in an expanded role, thanks to financial support from The Acadia Hospital.
Tremble’s original liaison position was created and funded 12 years ago by the Maine Department of Health and Human Services in the aftermath of the closure of the discharge ward at Bangor Mental Health Institute, now known as the Dorothea Dix Psychiatric Center, according to stories published at that time in the Bangor Daily News.
As liaison, Tremble went on regular ride-alongs with city police and frequently was called upon to help with health and welfare checks and with de-escalating incidents involving people in crisis, Bangor police Sgt. Paul Edwards said Wednesday.
In December, however, state budget changes that affected Tremble’s insurance prompted him to retire. The state gave no indication that it would fund the position going forward.
Despite recognizing the need for a liaison, the city had no available funding sources to continue the program, Edwards noted. Police Department officials began working with others in the community who recognized the benefits of the position to find ways to continue it.
Late last week, The Acadia Hospital announced it would step in and provide mental health liaison services for both the Bangor Police Department and the Penobscot County Sheriff’s Office as part of its existing Care Coordination and Consult Services program, Edwards said.
Tremble was tapped for the job in large part because of his experience in the field and ability to work effectively with law enforcement officers on a daily basis, Edwards said.
Neither Tremble nor Alan Comeau, the hospital’s spokesman, could be reached for comment Wednesday.
“We’re ecstatic to have him back,” said Edwards, who is superviser of his department’s Crisis Intervention Team, a CIT instructor for the National Alliance on Mental Illness’s Maine division and Maine’s 2006 CIT Officer of the Year.
“We view this as a win-win-win endeavor with the beneficiaries being the Police Department, the jail, hospitals, those afflicted with mental illness and the community at large,” Edwards said, adding, “The Bangor Police Department and the Penobscot County Sheriff’s Office commend Acadia Hospital for recognizing the benefits to the community of such a program.”
When the state discontinued funding for the liaison program at the end of last year, Bangor Police Chief Ron Gastia said that while his department had trained some officers in crisis intervention, it did not have the agency or institutional contacts needed to get access to background information of people in crisis or determine whether they have a caseworker.
Edwards said Wednesday that continuing the program will help avoid increases in the use of police resources, emergency room referrals, arrests and prosecutions that likely would occur without the intervention of a mental health liaison.
According to the job description posted by The Acadia Hospital, Tremble’s role will focus on working with area police to divert people with mental health problems from potential arrest and jail time when they would be better served “within the mental health arena.”