Rockville City Police recruits first mental health specialist


Graphic by Claire Yu

As a mental health specialist, Beth Loftus aims to help the Rockville police department offer resources to community members with mental health issues.

Deeta Gupta, News Writer

In March, the Rockville City Police Department (RCPD) employed a mental health specialist. Beth Loftus, a licensed therapist who had been working as a clinical therapist at the Montgomery County Crisis Center for 10 years, is now working in the Special Operations Division at the RCPD. 

Loftus’ work entails helping officers provide resources from the Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services for individuals with mental health issues.

Her former job required her to assist people dealing with homelessness, domestic violence, MCPS school referrals and mental health evaluations. Along with her work as a clinical therapist, she was also a member of the Montgomery County Mobile Crisis Team, a group of people that offers mental health services like crisis evaluation and recommended treatment daily. 

Loftus continues to serve as a crisis intervention instructor for the Montgomery County Crisis Intervention Training Program where she educates law enforcement about mental health illnesses.

Loftus’ qualifications for this position include her education at both Catholic University and Johns Hopkins University. In a Rockville Reports article, Loftus said, “In the past 10-plus years, my focus has been in training around crisis intervention, suicide prevention and de-escalation. I continue to educate myself to stay current with best practices and updated research.

The RM community weighed in on the presence of a mental health specialist in the Police Department and responses were generally positive. 

”I think it’s a good change that they’ve implemented this because suicide prevention is a big thing in today’s society and everyone should have access to [mental health services],” freshman Catie Chung said. 

“Especially after the pandemic, mental health has decreased and it’s not looking so good. I guess hiring a mental health specialist would be a nice step. It’s not going to be as impactful as much as we want but it’s a good step,” sophomore Nethaka Jayathilake said.

The effect that mental health illnesses have had on the community is quite impactful. An article by KFF outlining statistics for mental health in Maryland reported that “from February 1 to 13, 2023, 27.3% of adults in Maryland reported symptoms of anxiety and/or depressive disorder, compared to 32.3% of adults in the U.S.” 

“It really depends on the victims of these illnesses to stand up and use resources that the police department is providing with this mental health specialist,” Jayathilake said.

Police-Mental Health Collaboration Toolkits or PMHC Toolkits are resources for law enforcement to work with mental health specialists in order to keep the counties safe.  They are currently increasing in popularity as mental health takes the center stage in communities. 

“You never know who needs help and it should be accessible everywhere,” Chung said. However, some students are concerned with the reality of hiring mental health specialists. 

“Even though this is a great idea, I feel like some counties don’t have the massive budget that MCPS has, so we shouldn’t expect to look at mental health as a necessity on top of other things like security and technology,” Jayathilake said.

I look forward to being a part of this new initiative and watching it grow,” Loftus told Rockville Reports