Apalachee Center provides crisis intervention in an effort to de-escalate scenarios

Sheriff’s Community Outreach Coordinator David Conn, Wakulla MRT counselor Regina McQueen, and Major Anthony Curles of Road Patrol.


The Apalachee Center’s Mobile Response Teams have been working with the Wakulla County Sheriff’s Office in order to better assist people in moments of crisis.

At its founding in 1948, the Apalachee Center served the residents of Leon County, but has now grown to cover eight counties, including Wakulla. After the Passage of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act by the Florida Legislature, funds were allocated for the creation of Mobile Response Teams, to better respond to mental health crises across the state.
MRT is an on-demand crisis intervention service, which can quickly respond to individuals who require assistance. When someone calls the Apalachee Center’s phone number 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays, a counselor at the local Apalachee Center clinic in that county will immediately respond, speaking to the caller over the phone and attempting to de-escalate the crisis.
If needed, counselors can also respond in person within 60 minutes of receiving the call, to provide the best help possible for individuals who need it.
If an individual calls outside of those hours, there is always someone on call in Apalachee’s Central Receiving Facility to respond to calls, so support is always available for those who need it.
The sheriff’s office has partnered with the Apalachee Center and MRTs so that when responding to calls, emergency or otherwise, officers have trained professionals to rely on to help de-escalate dangerous scenarios and make effective mental health evaluations to determine whether or not a Baker Act should be conducted.
“You’re combining the officers with the counselors because the officer on scene is making sure the environment’s safe… while trying to determine this person’s needs,” said David Conn, community outreach coordinator at the sheriff’s office. “With an MRT counselor there, the officer has someone to help make that decision, he can turn that decision over to a trained specialist… He can move forward with a professional’s recommendation.”
MRT also offers a way for an individual who needs help to get it without needing to call the police department.
“It helps with the de-escalation,” said Regina McQueen, the MRT counselor for Wakulla. “When they see the uniform coming, some people have fear of that authority… You don’t always see an officer come to your door. ”
By giving an alternative to the police department, some situations can be more effectively defused, preventing something like a Baker Act – the involuntary commitment of someone for mental health issues for up to 72 hours – from being needed.
Between 2021 and 2023, Baker Acts conducted by sheriff’s deputies decreased from 220 per year to 177, a change of 43 over the course of two years.
While it is too early yet to accurately measure the impact of the MRTs on this statistic, what can be measured is the impact of that decrease on the sheriff’s office.
According to Major Anthony Curles of the Road Patrol Division, each Baker Act investigation an officer conducts can take up to four hours, from responding to the call to writing the report. Decreasing the number of Baker Acts carried out frees up deputies to get back out on the road and continue to keep Wakulla County safe.

The Apalachee Center’s Helpline number is (800) 342-0774, and the sheriff’s office non-emergency line is (850) 745-7100.