Cocoa Police Department Partners With Mental Health Counselors for ‘Cops and Kids’ Summer Camp

By  //  July 9, 2020

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The Cocoa Police Department youth programs have been place for more than two decades

The power and positive impact of professional mental health counselors partnering with law enforcement to influence…

Posted by Cocoa Police Department on Wednesday, July 8, 2020

ABOVE VIDEO: The power and positive impact of professional mental health counselors partnering with law enforcement to influence today’s youth is the hallmark of the Cocoa Police Department’s Cops and Kids Summer Camp program.

BREVARD COUNTY • COCOA, FLORIDA – The power and positive impact of professional mental health counselors partnering with law enforcement to influence today’s youth is the hallmark of the Cocoa Police Department’s Cops and Kids Summer Camp program.

While the 2020 camp was suspended due to the pandemic, last year’s inaugural program showed such great results the partnership will continue.

A grant through the Space Coast Health Foundation provided 9 counselors/therapists from Lifetime Counseling Center in Cocoa, for the 5-week camp.

“What we hear from the police department is often times things would come up during the course of the camp that really seems to tap into mental health issues,” said Dr. Lori Parsons, Executive Director of Lifetime Counseling Center.

“Maybe a traumatic experience a child had. Maybe a death in the family. Maybe somebody is getting bullied. All kinds of things come up when you’re working with kids and they [police] just wanted to have that opportunity to have that additional layer of mental health folks working with the kids as well so they could address those issues on the spot.”

The Cocoa Police Department’s focus on youth and community policing programs has been in place for more than two decades.

Helping police officers connect with young people to positively impact the next generation. (Cocoa PD Image)

In 2019, the camp evolved to include mental health counselors embedded in the program. The idea was meant to create a more holistic approach to helping the children learn positive life skills, improve social interactions, and to teach kids how to manage challenging situations.

“We had a foundation of thought. We want to help law enforcement interact with the families and have a positive impact,” said Detective Chris Hattaway, who in 2019 coordinated the partnership effort.

“I think the impact is even more positive for the kids. I see them frequently out in the community and think those are my kids because you spend so much time with them. You know them. You know their habits, their family dynamics. I think it helps us communicate better and it diffuses a lot of situations. When you walk on a scene they see you and they breathe a sigh of relief because they know you.”

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During the first week of the 2019 Cops and Kids Camp, one of the youth disclosed to a counselor that they had been experiencing abuse.

“We were able to deal with it right there at the moment, get the help that was needed and make sure the child was safe,” Dr. Parsons described. “That likely would never have happened had the therapists not been there and readily available. In the group and in the discussions that were happening, the child felt safe enough to disclose that information.”

In 2019, the camp hosted more than 30 children through the Cocoa Police Athletic League. The program will continue with community partners willing to invest the time and effort to follow through and build long-lasting positive relationships with the children alongside law enforcement.

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