The mission of Savannah Police Behavioral Health Unit (SPD BHU) Partnership is to promote enhanced child safety, child permanency and child and family well-being through effective interventions with families having parental substance use/abuse disorders and involvement with the justice system and child protective services.
The goal of establishing the SPD BHU is to create an effective community intervention to reduce the use of jail for adults, young adults and juveniles who may need alternative services or may have behavioral health, substance abuse needs.
The overall objectives are to:
- Develop and provide specialized training to police officers and other first responders through a 24 hour Enhanced Crisis Intervention Team program.
- Address Savannah’s Opioid and substance abuse problems
- Create multi-disciplinary teams between first responders and other victim service providers
The SPDBHU will be comprised of three vital components to accomplish the mission.
- Enhanced Crisis Intervention Team: consists of volunteer sworn CIT members who have completed the qualifying 24-hour ECIT training course. A position in the ECIT program is open to non-probationary CIT officers who are assigned to uniform positions and have already completed the 40-hour GA CIT course.
- The Behavioral Health Response Team: The BHRT is an essential component of the Behavioral Health Unit (BHU) that responds to crisis calls and conducts follow-up with individuals and families who have frequent or high risk contact with police due to behavioral crises that may result from mental illness and/or substance abuse. The BHRT consists of either two uniformed ECIT officers or a uniformed ECIT officer partnered with a licensed clinician.
- Service Coordination: To maintain partner networks, program connections, community groups, and referral sources, the Service Coordination is staffed through the Savannah Police/Behavioral Health Unit with a dedicated Program Manager. Service Coordination’s focus is crime and overdose reduction through the identification and engagement of individuals who are chronically arrested, and families affected by it, whose root cause of behavior is related to opioid and substance use disorders.
Referral sources include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Savannah Police Department
- Savannah Harm Reduction Coalition
- Chatham County District Attorney’s Office
- Chatham EMS
- Behavioral Health Crisis Center-Gateway
- Coastal Harbor
- Recovery Place
- Front Porch
- Other service providers
BHRTs receive referrals through the E-MAIL managed by the BHU Commander. The BHU Commander will review referrals to ensure the person lives in or has had police contact with in the City of Savannah and Chatham County. The unit commander will make assignments based on BHU capacity and the following criteria (in order of priority):
- Risk to others
- Frequent contacts
- Escalating behavior
- Risk to Self
The BHU is Commanded By Major Robert Gavin
MEET THE BHU UNIT
Assistant Chief Robert Gavin, Unit Commander
Cpl. Julie Cavanaugh
Cell Phone: 912.429.2407
Cpl. Cavanaugh has been a member of the Savannah Police Department since 2016. She has a Bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and is currently pursing a Master’s degree in human services. In addition to being ECIT certified, Cpl. Cavanaugh is a member of SWAT, the Peer Support Team and is ECIT certified. In addition, he is certified in FLETC Mental Health Crisis Instructor, ICAT instructor, BOLA Wrap certified and Crisis/Hostage Negotiation Level 1. Prior to her law enforcement career, she served eight years in the Army.
Officer Harpe has been a Police Officer since 2015 and has six years with SPD. She currently holds an instructor certification in Behavioral Health from FLETC and is also certified in E-CIT, Sexual Assault Investigations and Child Victim Investigation Fundamentals. She also serves on our Hostage Negotiation Team.
Officer Wilson has been a member of the Savannah Police Department since 2021. He served in the U.S. Army for three years as a petroleum supply specialist. During his time with SPD, Officer Wilson has completed various online training courses to assist with providing assistance to those in crisis. He is CIT and ASIST certified.
Officer Jones has been a member of Savannah Police Department since 2021. Prior to joining the department, Officer Jones served in the U.S. Marines for six years and as a law enforcement officer in DeKalb County, GA. Officer Jones has completely multiple law enforcement certifications, is CIT certified and is a member of the SPD Hostage Negotiation Team. He also holds a culinary arts degree from Le Cordon Bleu.
Deshante Chisholm, Licensed Professional Counselor
Deshante is a licensed master social worker at Gateway who currently rides with the Savannah Police Department Behavioral Health Unit to assist with follow ups and crisis calls. Deshante is a graduate of Savannah State University, where she obtained her Master of Social Work degree.
Goose, Therapy Dog
Goose is a licensed therapy dog that is attached to the Behavioral Health Unit. Goose provides his services to people who are in crisis, members of the community, Savannah Police Department members or any other local law enforcement that needs his support.