Parker is focusing on mental health in a new role with the Norristown Police Department.

NORRISTOWN — Ingrid Parker wasted no time getting down to business in the weeks following her new role as the Norristown Police Department’s Director of Police-Mental Health Collaboration.

While the Norristown native has been with the municipal law enforcement agency since August 2020, her new full-time role will focus on revamping strategies surrounding mental health.

“I collect information. I see what changes need to be made,” Parker told MediaNews Group. “I listen to officers, hear their personal stories and experiences, and discover how I can best support them as first responders to their own traumas, heartaches and tragedies they experience on a daily basis. .”

After the Norristown Police Department received a grant under the administration of former Chief Mark Talbot, Parker was appointed Youth-at-Risk Coordinator, working with children and teens to develop protocols “so that they do not enter the juvenile justice system”.

But his journey to that last job was a long one. Now living in East Norriton Township, Parker, 36, grew up in the county seat.

“My family is from Norristown and that’s my hometown. This is where my heart is,” she said.

Parker recalled fond memories of reading, biking through town and spending time with friends. She graduated in 2003 from Norristown Area High School with the dream of becoming an obstetrician-gynecologist.

However, the blood and grief associated with death were aspects of the profession that she remembered having struggled with. After encountering a family member’s struggles with schizophrenia, she developed an interest in mental health.

“I wanted to know more about it and how I could help people with mental illness, what programs, what resources were available to them, things like that,” she said.

Parker struggled to learn more and began her new path to becoming a mental health professional. Parker recounted her experience working with an autistic child, attending an internship, and other “various mental health positions.”

“It’s those initial connections and then just the knowledge that I gained through my professional or personal experiences,” she said. “I was just fascinated, and I saw the need for more, I would say, clinicians of color, and more people who are actually connected or have personal experiences with those who have mental health issues. “

Parker finally received certification as a licensed professional counselor in 2018 and earned a behavioral specialist license in 2017.

Starting her previous role as the police department amid the COVID-19 pandemic, she saw an opportunity to do more for the community as well as the officers who are sworn to protect and serve.

“With COVID-19 occurring and increased responses to mental health consumers from our agents, we saw the need for someone to fill this position full time to provide guidance to support agents with their own mental health and propose strategic strategies. ways for them to engage with members of the community who were suffering from mental illness and that’s kind of what Chief (Derrick) Wood envisioned for me in this new role as Director of Police, Collaborative Mental Health said Parker.

Norristown Police Chief Derrick E. Wood.

The liaison post was arranged for Parker, according to Norristown Police Chief Derrick Wood.

“One of the things I’ve seen over the years is an increase in contact between the police and people with mental health crises, and the welfare of officers has also become a hot topic among law enforcement. order, and I’ve seen that in my 24 years in law enforcement — that often we don’t prioritize the mental well-being of our officers,” Wood said. “J So I felt I had to hire someone who could not only be a collaborator or a connector for people who need services on the street, but also within our services.”

Wood sent out a tweet updating Parker’s professional role on April 11.

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Parker aims to expand his professional expertise to further assist the department’s 65 officers.

“I’ve always seen the need for mental health resources, and working with the police department, I’ve had the chance to see firsthand how our officers are often – because they’re the first responders – responding to these calls where they are experiencing or coming into contact with mental health consumers or undiagnosed individuals,” Parker said.

Specific training tools included crisis intervention techniques and trauma-informed mansion approach situations. It could mean “speaking in a low voice and using open body language” in a conversational way rather than “authoritative”.

“Asking what supports are needed… would help our officers better approach situations when they come into contact with someone going through a mental health crisis,” she said.

By implementing these strategies, Parker aims to add another tool that city police officers can use when responding to calls for service and on patrol.

“They will be better equipped to deal with it,” she said. “They will be trauma-informed and culturally sensitive and understand the strategies we have in place to get help for this resident.”

Along with her personal touch on the job, Parker stressed the need to seek advice from other mental health service-based organizations.

“As a police service, we seek to partner with mental health organizations that are licensed and specifically designed to provide mental health support,” Parker said. Although I am a licensed professional and able to provide immediate support, I have to refer, and I want to make sure that we are able as a police service to have these collaborations, and these links with local organizations to do the work in addition to our knowledgeable and trauma-sensitive officers.

“They’re officers, they’re not therapists, they’re not social workers,” she continued. “So we want to make sure that we refer and involve these people to better help our residents.”

Parker also stressed the importance of forming partnerships with these crucial agencies.

“I see that with Mental Health Awareness Month… and Police Week coming up, I want to make sure that organizations are able to support our police officers and the things they are going through, because it is important for them to be well so they can better serve our community,” she said.

Wood added that he plans to have green sanity ribbons adorning officers’ uniforms this month.

In addition to her work with the City Police Department, Parker was recently named to the Norristown Area School District School Board earlier this year. But she stressed the importance of community involvement.

“It’s not a job sitting behind a desk,” Parker said.

Wood noted that news of Parker’s new position generated positive feedback from the Montgomery and Philadelphia County departments.

“Mental health is a very important aspect of our interaction with the community, so I think we need to bring in someone to really be that connector and collaborate, because I’m not an expert, and she is” , did he declare. “So I really like having him on my team.”

Parker expressed high hopes for long-term impacts as she continues to settle into her new role.

“I’m looking to really increase the idea of ​​police departments being trauma-informed and culturally sensitive when interacting with the community, and I want to make sure individuals know that the Norristown Police Department is genuinely committed to who they are. do with Norristown residents,” Parker said.

“They’re ready to take the training, they’re ready to do some soul-searching and find out exactly how their own traumas and triggers from their work affect them in their work and heal from it,” she continued. “I want the community to know that these are things that we are genuinely committed to doing.

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