Starting Point Behavioral Healthcare Partners with the Fernandina Beach Police Department to Create the City’s First Co-Responder Unit

Animated Police Car and Police Officer

This article appeared in the Fernandina Observer on November 24, 2021. See the article here.

Yulee, Fla: Starting Point Behavioral Healthcare announced its partnership with the Fernandina Beach Police Department to bring the first Co-Responder unit to the city of Fernandina Beach, Florida. The Co-Responder Unit will include one Starting Point behavioral health clinician and one crisis intervention trained (CIT) law enforcement officer. The team will work side by side using their combined expertise to respond to calls in the community, de-escalate situations, and help link individuals with behavioral health issues to appropriate services.

“The Co-Responder program is the first of its kind in Nassau County, Florida,” says Laureen Pagel, CEO at Starting Point. “However, it is not a new concept. Regional and national Co-Responder programs date back several decades and have paved the way with demonstrated success in deescalating emergency and crisis situations. We can’t wait to track the progress and see the change right here in Fernandina Beach.”

– Laureen Pagel, CEO, Starting Point Behavioral Healthcare

The goal of the Fernandina Beach Co-Responder unit is to improve public safety, increase access to behavioral health services, improve community relationships between the public and law enforcement officials, and decrease repeat encounters with the criminal justice system. Among others, the unit will respond to the following situations:

  • Individuals experiencing a mental health crisis
  • Individuals experiencing a substance use crisis
  • Individuals in need of treatment
  • Suicidal ideation and suicides
  • Homicidal ideation
  • Welfare checks
  • Low-level or petty crimes

“I value the long-standing partnership between the FBPD and Starting Point Behavioral Healthcare,” says Mark Foxworth, Chief of Police at the Fernandina Beach Police Department. “I am excited about this new partnership and believe it will be beneficial to the community and to the police department. We have identified an officer that the new position will partner with but the vision is for the mental health professional to be a resource and to partner with all members of the FBPD to address various issues including the members of the homeless population suffering from mental health or substance use issues.”

– Mark Foxworth, Chief of Police, Fernandina Beach Police Department

The Fernandina Beach Co-Responder Unit was fully funded earlier this year in the Florida Leads Budget through a special project called Project T.A.L.K.S. The Unit will begin responding to calls in Fernandina Beach on January 1st, 2021.

About Starting Point Behavioral Healthcare

Starting Point Behavioral Healthcare provides mental health and substance abuse treatment services to children, teens and adults in Northeast Florida and Southeast Georgia. The non-profit agency serves more than 3,000 individuals each year and has been serving the region for more than 29 years. Starting Point is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF). For more information, please visit


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