Violent incident puts Vt. police in the middle of mental health - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Violent incident puts Vt. police in the middle of mental health crisis

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Police departments continue to be put in the middle of Vermont's mental health crisis, but those struggling can often be led to a jail cell rather than receive psychiatric help.

It's another case that blurs the line of physical crime and mental sanity. Police say they wanted to get the accused screened but instead had to put her in cuffs.

Police say 19-year-old Taryn Barwin led them to a standoff Sunday evening after making threats and damaging the inside of a White Street home.

"Officers said this is a little more than someone who's run in a house and doesn't want to come out," said Chief Trevor Whipple, South Burlington Police Department.

It started with a physical fight between Barwin and her mother at the Light of the World Church down the street.

Police say Barwin then ran to her mother's home and started throwing things, barricading doors and windows, taking pills and threatening to kill herself.

And when she allegedly dumped gasoline on the floor authorities say they realized they were dealing with someone struggling.

"When someone's making threats against themselves, threats to put gasoline in a house, those are not threats that we hear from a person who isn't struggling with some sort of difficulty." said Whipple.

After more than an hour, police were able to finally talk Barwin down and got her to come outside, before taking her to UVM Medical Center.

"I hoped, I believed, when I left last night that she would receive some sort of inpatient service," said Whipple.

But police say that didn't happen and that Barwin was denied a mental health screening because she had been drinking. They say she was set to be released and left them with the only other choice, arresting her.

"That was the only option. And certainly not one that I feel good about taking," said Whipple.

Whipple says police departments are becoming the de facto responders for those in mental health crisis. He says the public often feels there's no one else to call -and no place for them to take those in need.

"We need a larger capacity in the field of mental health clinicians who can be emergency responders," said Whipple.

Monday, Barwin was in custody and entered a not guilty plea to charges of domestic assault and unlawful mischief. Her competency and sanity was also addressed.

"The court will so order an inpatient evaluation," said Whipple. 

As her mental health care is now in the hands of the courts.

Under federal law, anyone who shows up at an emergency room has to be screened and that includes for mental health.

WCAX reached out to the UVM Medical Center and they say they can't comment on this specific case due to HIPAA. They did say if a patient is altered from drinking or drugs, they will only delay screening them and that access is not denied to any patients who want an assessment.

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