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When Crisis Hits, Call This Woman


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About the episode

“I’m seeing that I’m getting involved with 30 or 40 new clients every week or every. And that is a larger number than I think people would have expected in Hingham, just Hingham.” –Aileen Walsh, Community Crisis Response Clinician, Town of Hingham


Ally Donnelly  00:07

Hi and welcome to the Hingham cast. I’m your host ally Donnelly. This episode is sponsored by Derby street shops. The Hingham cast is hyper local. We look at the world through the lens of one small town, my town here on Boston, South Shore, but the issues we explore are unfolding in communities across the country. Like when your world implodes, who’s there to help you pick up the pieces. My guest today is Aileen  Walsh, she’s a community crisis response clinician embedded in the handgun Police Department. Hi, Aileen.

Aileen Walsh

Hi, how are you?

Ally Donnelly  00:42

So off the bat, what is a community Crisis Response clinician?

Aileen Walsh

Essentially, when the police get a call for mental health, or emotionally disturbed individual, I’m available to go to the call to the home or to any other school or office to help assist with that call.

Ally Donnelly  01:03

Okay, so what value does your role bring to a community?

Aileen Walsh

Well, right now, post-pandemic, we are struggling with being able to provide mental health services to individuals, and I am available to go in the moment and assess an individual and provide services.

Ally Donnelly  01:27

So when you say provide services, what do you mean?

Aileen Walsh

Assessment, versus the individual having to go to the ER, and, you know, hook them up to any mental health or substance use treatment that they might need in the moment.

Ally Donnelly  01:44

Okay, so if I’m a family in Hingham, and I want to know, Well, why would I want a lien on a scene if I’ve called 911? And I think I need police, my kids in crisis, my family members, you know, something really awful has happened, why would I want you there?

Aileen Walsh

I think it provides a kind of a kinder softer approach where I can, you know, talk to you help, you know, make you understand what the system is like, what the next steps will be. And, versus going to an ER and waiting for a referral that could take six months for your child to get into speak to a counselor. This way you get to speak to me right away,

Ally Donnelly  02:32

I think it might be helpful, can you give us a day in the life so to speak of your of your job?

Aileen Walsh

Sure. Every day of course is different. I essentially come in, I will look at any kind of reports that have been forwarded to me by officers, I go through the log, I begin to reach out to people, but at any moment, 911 call come in where the officers are requested me on scene. So I will go out and meet with the family and do my assessment and help deescalate and, you know, provide any kind of service that that is required.


Walsh counseled terrified residents when a man barricaded himself in his apartment in 2020 and started shooting at officers below.




Ally Donnelly  03:15

Okay, so,  you know, I think it also might be helpful to give some real life examples. And you know, Hingham has had some high profile cases, but it’s not always high profile cases that need you. But I’m just going to name off a few that I know are in your history. So you know, there was a an active shooter situation in the Hingham Shipyard. It was a year ago or two years ago. And I thought, well, maybe she wouldn’t have been there. Because that’s a very active SWAT team kind of scene. I know you responded to the Sweet Tomatoes crash in Newton. And that’s when a, an errant driver crashed into a pizza parlor. And it was awful people were killed, people were hurt, very traumatic. So help us understand your work through that kind of lens. And then maybe we could talk about the more hate to say run of the mill, but a little less high profile kind of incident.

Aileen Walsh

Sure, with the active shooter, I was asked to come to the scene. Once it would say if I was at a distance, and I provided any kind of just check ins with individuals that lived in the building that were struggling for very good reason and helping them to process through what they just had experienced.

Ally Donnelly  04:44

So it’s not always maybe kind of the, for lack of a better term, the suspect or the person having the crisis at that. Well, I guess you define crises in a lot of different ways. But it’s not always the kind of the main character of a crisis so to speak.

Aileen Walsh

Right It can be the family it can be neighbors, it can be other children in a school where there’s an incident has happened and they may be struggling. I try and provide the service to whomever.

Ally Donnelly  05:13

Okay, Sweet Tomatoes,

Aileen Walsh

Sweet Tomatoes I was very involved in that. I helped with some debriefings for officers. I was present for the death notification. Moving forward where there were witnesses that were children, the officers had me reach out to the children to set up appointments. I was there during their interviews, again, just kind of providing that like softer caring approach, helping to process with them what they were going to experience being questioned. And if I thought they needed any kind of extra support, I’d reach out to the schools or out to the therapists and just providing that more wraparound service.

Ally Donnelly  06:08

Let’s take a quick break. Coming up, Walsh maps out how else she shows up for the community and how often it may be a teen threatening suicide or a drug overdose or severe bullying in school. It could be something you’d like to keep private about police lights and public records she fills us in and how she can help families navigate crisis outside of the public eye.

But first I want to thank our sponsor the Derby Street Shops. Before you know it these warm sunny mornings will become cool fall afternoons. As you think about your “sweatah weathah” outfits or what to wear to all these events that are back in full force head to Derby Street. Evereve just opened up a beautiful store there. They’re stocked with trendy sweaters, coats, accessories, plus the fun doesn’t stop at shopping. Derby has some great events coming up there’s a Boos and Brews family-friendly Halloween event at the Untold Brewing beer garden and a yappy hour celebration for the furriest members of your family. And let’s not forget Hingham’s first Shake Shack and Pottery Barn are opening this fall too. So enjoy your Derby days and be sure to check out to see what’s new and now. That’s Derby st Okay, back to our conversation with Aileen.

If you could tick off either some other real life examples that you’ve experienced in your career or some hypotheticals to help us understand when we might, you know, see you

Aileen Walsh

Okay, um, say if an individual or a child is expressing any kind of suicidality homicidal thoughts, any reporting of hallucinations, even as something as simple as bullying, if a kid  is reporting that they’re being bullied in the school, and, you know, the school may not feel like it’s, you know, doing enough, I might be able to step in and, you know, make some recommendation as to what I would feel would help support that child to feel comfortable. Any kind of addiction issues, I respond to post overdoses. I’m also active in anybody’s case who might have criminal charges, where I would go to court with them, and suggest different treatment and go in front of the magistrate and make recommendations to them and their lawyers to say, you know, maybe if we show that were actively working on this issue, they might be willing to work with us.

Ally Donnelly  08:53

Meaning you’re trying to use the word divert a lot, but you know, you’re trying to keep someone out of jail out of the ER, out of maybe a system response that they could get lost in or not have their mental health need or their other need met?

Aileen Walsh

Yeah, absolutely. Our will be placed on like an hour long waitlist. The other piece of it is cost. It’s a huge cost saving if an individual is diverted from the ER and doesn’t have to take that ambulance ride because a lot of times insurance doesn’t cover it. So they’re, you know, and then just being involved in the legal system can be costly to a family.

Ally Donnelly  09:38

Yeah, yeah. I want to kind of dig into the breadth of the work. I mean, you know, I think sometimes there can be a perspective Oh, Hingham, shipyard, you know, whatever, that that kind of thing doesn’t normally happen in a town like Hingham, when of course you know, domestic violence, mental health crises, drug abuse and use happen everywhere. You know, I want to pull out I’m a big data person, but there was a 2022 DPH, Department of Public Health Report. And it found that seven to 10% of police involved calls involved a person dealing with a mental health crisis. And by DPH, is on admission, the number is probably widely under representative. How often do you hear about see about attend to those kinds of calls in Hingham.

Aileen Walsh

A lot more than I think people would realize I can be in the cruiser driving around and I respond to calls in the moment, a few times a day, sometimes it could be one call after another after another, where I’m literally blue lighting with an officer to the next call. Some days might be quiet. But you know, on average, I’m seeing that I’m getting involved with 30 or 40 new clients every week or every. And that is a larger number than I think people would have expected in Hingham, just Hingham.

Walsh works hard with the courts to get drug abusers help instead of jail time.

Ally Donnelly  11:08

So when you get to a scene, and I know, you’re asking yourself the kind of like, Am I safe kinds of questions, but when you’re on a scene, what questions are you asking yourself? And then what factors do you consider when you’re talking to someone in crisis?

Aileen Walsh

While I’m asking them, you know, what’s going on today? What was the reason for the crisis? That information might be gathered from the collateral contacts on scene? I’m asking them the basic kind of safety questions like Are they suicidal or homicidal? What medications may they be on or may have changed lately? You know, what, what precipitated this situation that the police have been called, trying to gather as much information as I can, even just from the actual place, I’m at the scene, you know, whether the furniture is thrown around, or whether there’s, you know, the house is in disarray? Like being able to go into people’s homes gives me a huge advantage to being able to kind of get a good picture of what’s going on.

Ally Donnelly  12:16

Yeah. So if I’m a mom with a teenager, perhaps that’s either, you know, abusing drugs, or has threatened to kill themselves, like, what kind of access do I have to you? I mean, can I call you specifically? Do you always come with police? How does that work?

Aileen Walsh

So the police, you first call the police, I always say you have to be safe. But you can always call my cell phone and ask if I can come or you can ask the officers is the clinician available, and then they will send me to the call. Generally, I’m listening to the radio, I have a radio with me. And if it happens at the weekend or at nights, you’re still welcome to call me. And I will respond to the scene as long as it’s safe. And the officers are there and it’s not an active scene. Yeah, I’d say for me. Yeah, of course, officers give me at a very good distance. I do have a bulletproof vest. I do. You know, make sure that I don’t go in until they tell me it’s safe to do so.

Ally Donnelly  13:27

Yeah, yeah. I mean, I, you know, I think there was a case I can like I think it was last year or maybe two years, I could be blurring my mind dates when this pandemic everything’s a blur. But there was a young man who had a significant arsenal of weapons in his house and hang them. Is that a kind of call you go to?

Aileen Walsh

It depends. I don’t believe so. Because I think in that situation, the officers would be trying to remove the weapons legally. And but if they requested it after the scene was safe, maybe I would go and assess if needed. There are so many calls where I feel like a social worker couldn’t be helpful. It’s just a matter of do we have the time to go out and do the assessment right away?

Ally Donnelly  14:19

Yeah, yeah. I think there are a fair amount of families that even though it’s a crisis, they’re worried about their neighbors, what the neighbors think if their name is going to be in the police blotter and we’ll avoid calling the police at all costs. So help me understand your alignment with the police department. What does it mean? And are there situations where someone could just call you and not go through the police?

Aileen Walsh

Absolutely. Police people have my number and I welcome any calls to decide. If they just want to talk with me, if I feel that it’s a safe situation, I will go to people’s homes, or I’ll invite them into the police department, which, you know, I try and make as welcoming as possible to do some follow up. You know, I’m, I’m open to meeting people anywhere like Starbucks, or Dunkin Donuts, whatever feels comfortable. We don’t always have to have the police involved. And, you know, trying to meet them where they’re at, essentially.

Ally Donnelly  15:30

So, answer this question if you can, and yes, and knows, and if you can, I understand. But if I’m being physically mentally sexually abused, can I call you? Yes. If I’m abusing drugs, or alcohol, and I feel like things are out of control, can I call you? Absolutely. If my child is experiencing some kind of mental health crisis? And I think it’s escalating, can I call you? Yes. If I suspect a friend is in crisis, can I call you? Absolutely. Okay. So, you know, we talked a little bit about the alignment with police. And there are some social workers who don’t want to get into this kind of work, or it’s your job description, because they worry that they won’t be seen as independent in their caregiving give me a response to that kind of feeling.

Aileen Walsh

So I don’t document a lot of my work in police paperwork, like I will document it separate, I keep all my documentation with the medical or the mental health history separate, so it’s not public record. Even the supplements that they do is now public record. And in that, I’m very cautious as to what I put. So it will be a very general note, because the officers don’t need or want to know, the use of medication or the diagnosis and such. So I keep my my record separate, and we are looking at getting a better system, so that I can have a proper medical doc like evaluation.

Ally Donnelly  17:23

Interesting. I have worked with a number of police departments throughout my career and police officers. And though, you know, kind of the whole community type of policing has certainly evolved over this past decade. But there are still officers who don’t maybe embrace as quickly the kind of squishy side of policing or community response, what’s been the response from the handgun Police Department.

Aileen Walsh

It’s been awesome. I worked with them before for two years on a grant. And they’ve been very open and appreciative of any efforts that I make to help people in the community, they seem very invested in wanting to get people help.

Ally Donnelly  18:14

That’s good. That’s good. So as you look at the mental health, drug crisis, any other landscape on the horizon or or the horizon? What concerns you? Is there anything that community or parents can, can get ahead of? Or what are you seeing?

Aileen Walsh

It seems to me like there’s a huge problem with some bullying and, you know, kids just going back to school and having a lot of anxiety about it. Trying to settle back into school, following those routines. I think COVID You know, was hard on everybody. I also would be concerned about we had a great speaker here and hang on last week about the marijuana use, especially starting out at like middle school age. So I would be concerned and implore parents to get a little bit more educated on the concerns and the downfalls with the use of marijuana at such a young age.

Ally Donnelly  19:31

Okay, so if someone listening could take away one overarching thing from this conversation, what would you want it to be?

Aileen Walsh

I’d want them to know that the Hingham Police Department has a clinician available that is accessible to them so they don’t have to wait six months to get their child or their family member into treatment. And to feel free to call or drop into the police department. If they ever need any help,

Ally Donnelly  20:02

and what’s the best way for people to reach you?

Aileen Walsh

Oh, Ally, you had to ask me that!

Ally Donnelly  20:14

So, alright, I won’t put you on the spot. Exactly. All the handgun Police Department in your extension is

Aileen Walsh

2222. Oh, people could email me at Walsh

Ally Donnelly  20:29

Okay, we’ll put that on our Facebook page on our website as well. Hey, alien wash. I thank you so much. Well,

Aileen Walsh

Thank you for having me here. I’m happy to be here and let people know about this position.

Ally Donnelly  20:40

Terrific, terrific. If you like The Hingham ‘Cast, support us. Follow and download the podcast wherever you listen and sign up for our emails to win cool prizes and get the heads up when new episodes drop. So never miss stories in your community for your community. Thanks again to our sponsor, Derby Street Shops, our media partners at the Hingham Anchor and Donna Mavromates and her team at Mavro Creative for our terrific website. I’m Ally Donnelly, thanks for listening. Talk to you soon.

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