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Emergency Responders Honored for Mental Health Service

Four Arlington emergency responders were honored with Crisis Intervention Team awards earlier this month for handling emergencies with mentally ill patients.

Arlington County Police Officer James Joy was named Officer of the Year, Deputy Jeffrey Nowak was named Deputy of the Year, Officer Samuel Sentz was honored with the Intervention of the Year and Emergency Communications Technician Shanika Stewart was named Dispatcher of the Year.

Joy was recognized for three incidents as examples of his work responding with compassion and responsibility for patients struggling with mental illness. In one of those cases last April, Joy responded to a call for trespassing and, upon finding out the suspect was a military veteran suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and going through a divorce, Joy contacted the Wounded Warrior Project, which helped the veteran get the proper care.

Nowak was honored for responding to a December crisis in the Arlington County Detention Center in which an “actively psychotic and delusional” inmate started banging his head against his cell wall. Nowak, according to the Office of Emergency Management, diffused the situation by relying on his past relationship with the inmate. Nowak remembered the inmate had heard voices in the past, and spoke is short, simple sentences so his message could get through.

Sentz responded to a call in December at the Marriott Residence Inn in Crystal City during which a soldier “was intoxicated, creating a disturbance and trespassing at the hotel,” according to OEM. Sentz responded not by sending the soldier to the “drunk tank,” but by getting him medical assistance. In a letter to the OEM, Director of the U.S. Army Physical Disability Agency Col. Carl M. Johnson credited Sentz with “saving the soldier’s life.”

The awards ceremony was held April 2 at Virginia Hospital Center.

Photos courtesy Arlington County

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