York County employees prevent suicides

It was a day after the York County Human Services Center reopened to the public when an individual experiencing a mental health crisis walked in seeking help.

On call for walk-in patients that day was Del, a supervisor for the York/Adams County MH/IDD, who, like on any other day, was simply doing her job when she called Tomas. At that very moment, Tomas was the only person in the building within MH/IDD who was able to not just translate the individual’s language to English but understand the specific dialect as well.

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The individual entered the county building and told Del and Tomas they wanted to die. They had experienced tough times and were feeling depressed.

It was evident that the individual needed immediate assistance.

We remained calm, positive and supportive, Tomas said. It was courageous that they came in and sought help, he added.

Help Typography

Within 25 minutes from walking through that door, the individual was on their way to an inpatient crisis care facility. They were seen immediately and would typically stay in crisis care for at least 72 hours.

Many lives are saved each and every day because of the work that the MH/IDD staff does. “I am extremely proud to work with such dedicated professionals who put our consumers and their families first,” said agency director Sharon Harlacher.

Having opened the building’s doors to the public so recently, Del believes divine intervention helped bring the right things together at the right time.

In the wee hours of the morning, roughly 20 hours later, a caller in a mental health crisis picked up the phone, dialed 911 and told the dispatcher they had been hearing voices that said to kill themself. This was a call for help.

Over the next 11 minutes and 12 seconds, Nicole, a dispatcher for York County 911, spoke smoothly and softly but with purpose and control as she learned that this individual had aspirations to study accounting in college. They talked about COVID-19 restrictions and how it made seeing doctors difficult.

Mental disorders can affect a person’s ability to think, feel and behave clearly. In these moments of crises, an individual could be easily triggered by something as simple as a light or a sound.

The caller expressed concern with a police vehicle’s lights and sirens showing up at that hour. The dispatcher kept the caller calm and self-aware, but she was aware that anything could have been a potential trigger in a mental health crisis – when seconds feel like hours. Something like future plans for college could trigger someone in crisis.

“Not knowing the person on the other side – you never know what they’re dealing with,” York County 911 Director Matt Hobson said. “College, for instance, could have been a trigger, but the caller mentioned it first so it was probably a safe topic.”

A mental health crisis call is complex because you do not know where in the crisis these people are. Situations can escalate quickly.

What Nicole did during the potentially life-saving call was maintain the caller’s calm, Hobson said. She made sure to maintain that status quo and not say anything or do anything to potentially inflame the situation, he said.


While on the phone, the caller shared with Nicole how much her work was appreciated. The caller stated, “You do a good job taking care of us.”

The caller corresponded with York County hours after the incident to make sure to relay their gratitude for the dispatcher being so nice and calming.

“She talked to me like I was a person, not a bother or my disease,” the caller said. “I’m glad she answered that phone.”

The employees of the county’s Human Services departments and the 911 employees are the unsung heroes of the county that make a difference every day in the lives of our residents.

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