LAFAYETTE, La. (KLFY) – Senator Bill Cassidy and colleagues recently introduced the Law Enforcement De-escalation act.” The bill will allocate $70 million annually for law enforcement to receive training to respond more effectively to people with mental or behavioral health issues.

Right here in Lafayette, a local organization is also working with law enforcement to easily connect sufferers with the right resources.

“Training is always needed. There are always new techniques. New thoughts and new ideas that come.
We want to continue to have really good law enforcement that know how to react in a lot of different situations,” said Holly Howat, founder and director of Beacon Community Connections.

The organization works with law enforcement departments across Lafayette Parish.

“The project was to not wait until someone showed up in jail and then try to fix the problem,” Howat said, “but really help law enforcement officers give them another tool that they can use when they encounter somebody with a mental illness.”

Joshua Hamburg is the community resource specialist. He works directly with referred clients.

Hamburg said he talks with clients about what’s going on and asks them what kind of help they need, then he connects them to resources.

His most common cases are substance abuse and suicidal cases. So far, law enforcement officers have referred over 500 clients to Beacon Community.

Initially, clients have reservations about working with law enforcement and Beacon, Hamburg said, but in the end, they are grateful.

“Recently I had a suicidal client that I’ve been working with,” Hamburg said. “I was able to connect her to someone. She called me from the facility and told me how thankful she was.”

Sheriff Mark Garber with the Lafayette Parish Sheriff’s Office works closely with Beacon Community Connections. Carencro Police Chief David Anderson has also personally referred clients to the organization.

“When I heard that this program was expanding, I knew it would help the people of Carencro,” Anderson said. “My officers and I want to help people, and by partnering with Beacon, we can help them.”

Beacon Community not only works with law enforcement but local hospitals as well. They also help provide resources for basic needs.