Meet the Murfreesboro Police Department Mental Health Co-Responders

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Heather Noulis is a mental health professional, Quentin Peeler is an officer and instructor with the Murfreesboro Police Department Crisis Response Team.

Noulis is small, balanced and caring. Peeler is bold, courageous and empathetic.

Noulis has always wanted to be more active with local law enforcement while focusing her community work on mental health consumers. Peeler considers himself to be compassionate, driven and dedicated to his service.

Together, this service duo provides on-site resources to mental health calls, including assessments — the result of a partnership between the Murfreesboro Police Department and the Voluntary Behavioral Health Care System.

“We are the ones who are really able to go deeper and understand a person for who they are and to be able to help them for who they are,” Noulis said.

In 2021, local law enforcement responded to nearly 2,700 mental health calls in Rutherford County, said Kelsey Taylor, director of community response and training at the Volunteer Behavior Health Care System. The county’s mobile crisis data is one of the highest in the state, with many calls coming from Murfreesboro, Taylor added.

That’s why Noulis is here.

Noulis began her role last week as the police department’s first-ever mental health co-responder, working with Peeler and other officers. The belief is that adding a non-police officer to these community calls will result in better results, while allowing officers to focus on other calls for service.

Mental health co-respondent Heather Noulis (left) works with Murfreesboro Police Department officers such as Quentin Peeler (right), who is part of the department's crisis response team.

“Between the two of us, we have a common end goal, and I can help her navigate the real world of patrolling between police officers and she could help guide me through the real process, assessments, etc.” said Peeler.

Noulis is a recent graduate of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, where she studied forensic psychology and forensic mental health counseling. Her education gave her a comprehensive understanding of psychological development and psychopathology, personality assessment, psychotherapeutic approaches and research methods. This better understanding of mental health issues has allowed her to be more compassionate when involved with mental health issues, from diagnosis to stigma reduction.

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Peeler’s passion lies in the autism community. He has done most of his volunteer work with the special needs population in the area.

More than 60 agents and dispatchers completed a 40-hour crisis intervention training course. Other officers must undergo specialized training in mental health.

Peeler is one of the department’s instructors.

“The better the training provided, the better the results,” Peeler said.

Taylor hopes the addition of Noulis to the field will reduce recidivism rates and decrease unnecessary emergency room visits.

Said Taylor, “I think we’ve come a long way and there’s always room for growth, and that’s what we’re trying to do with this program.”

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