Oceans Healthcare Hires Law Enforcement Veteran in Fight to Decriminalize Mental Illness

Oct 26th, 2020

Liaison will work within communities to raise awareness of behavioral health support

PLANO, Texas (Oct. 26, 2020) – Plano, Texas-based Oceans Healthcare today announced the appointment of former Gulfport, Mississippi, police chief Leonard Papania as the behavioral health system’s law enforcement and community outreach liaison. In this newly created position, Papania will work in the communities Oceans serves to build strong relationships with law enforcement and other organizations while offering support to better identify, understand and provide treatment to individuals with behavioral health challenges.

Nearly 2 million people with mental illness – including many veterans with PTSD or other mental health conditions – are booked into jails each year, resulting in people with mental illness being disproportionately represented in U.S. jail and prison populations.

Papania recently retired as Gulfport chief of police after more than 25 years in law enforcement. During his tenure he served in the Patrol Division, Narcotics Division and Professional Standards Unit. He also served as a Task Force Agent with the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics and as a Task Force Officer with the Drug Enforcement Administration.

“As frontline mental health providers we’ve historically approached this issue from a medical perspective and its imperative, especially now, that we broaden our approach to include other community stakeholders who can truly impact our efforts to destigmatize and decriminalize mental health,” said Stuart Archer, CEO of Oceans Healthcare. “I’m grateful for Leonard’s leadership as we establish a more formal process within our network to build relationships with law enforcement to ultimately break the cycle of incarceration and worsening mental health.”

During his time as chief of police, Papania led one of the largest police forces in the state and advocated strongly for prioritizing mental health resources in the Gulfport community. He served as an advisor to Oceans in 2019 during the opening of its behavioral health hospital in Biloxi and has worked with homeless youth since he retired from the police department.

“As we do better as a society to address the stigma related to mental health, we’re going to be in a better position to help lessen the reliance on law enforcement to solve mental health issues,” said Papania. “I am grateful to Oceans for recognizing the men and women in uniform who take on this charge daily and I am proud to join their team to ultimately help more people access needed mental health treatment.”

 

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