University of Georgia Archway Partnership™ faculty member Sarah Adams and community members from Moultrie recently presented on the Moultrie co-responder project at the annual International Town and Gown Association (ITGA) conference in Colorado. The ITGA is a nonprofit dedicated to furthering partnership and collaboration between colleges and their communities.

Adams was joined in her presentation by Moultrie Chief of Police Sean Ladson, Lieutenant Tonero Bender, Georgia Pines CEO RJ Hurn, Georgia Pines counselor Julio Ginel and UGA student Caleb Snead to talk about the co-responder model the community has adopted to tackle the link between mental health and crime. Through that model, a mental health professional is dispatched along with police when an emergency call comes in about an incident involving someone impaired or who possibly has mental health issues. The project was part of a spotlight on UGA’s innovative approach to rural engagement and the Archway Partnership that earned the 2022 C. Peter Magrath Community Engagement Scholarship Award from the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities.

The project started when Bender, seeing an increase in the number of cases involving mental health issues, asked Archway to investigate options. Adams connected with a team of students from the UGA Terry College of Business Institute for Leadership Advancement to make a site visit to Colquitt County. The team participated in a ride-along, examined police data, assessed existing mental health resources and identified barriers to access.

This led to discussions with the Athens Police Department which had already piloted a co-responder model program—where a licensed clinical social worker accompanies a police officer on mental health-related incident responses. Snead joined the project and contributed further research leading to the partnership between Georgia Pines and the Moultrie Police Department. Approximately 100 arrests have already been avoided since the program began in May of 2022 and it is a model that Ladson and Bender are eager to share.

The program is able to offer long-term savings by finding treatment for those who might otherwise get caught in a revolving door with the criminal justice system.

“Often when we come on scene, when they see the police officer, they assume they’re going to jail,” said Ginel. “My role is not to put them in jail or to involuntarily place them in hospitalization, but to identify what their needs are and how can I assist them. So because I come with that approach, the individuals tend to be more relaxed and more responsive.”

The interactive presentation from the UGA and Moultrie team at the ITGA conference shared a multi-level and integrated strategy for improving local infrastructure to address issues related to mental health in a rural, southwest Georgia community. The panel discussed mental health issues, engaging students for service-based learning initiatives, co-responder models and forming collaborative partnerships. They also provided recommendations for how others might begin addressing mental health issues in their communities.

Writer: Baker Owens,, 706-510-9622

Contact: Sarah Adams,, 229-921-3170