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|November 16, 2009
Director of Communications
Newburyport District Court Probation Officer and Office Manager Team Up
In Rescue of Suicidal Man
It was a normal Friday at Newburyport District Court. The Probation Department was buzzing with activity as Probation support staff handled court business—filing documents and answering phone calls. Probation Officers met with offenders and moved in and out of the courtrooms to advise on cases before the court.
One phone call from a distraught court–involved man transformed this familiar calm yet frenetic office into a crisis intervention scene as a Probation Officer and Office Manager worked together to prevent a man from harming himself while also coaxing information on his whereabouts from him.
Michael Morrill, a four–year Probation Officer, was working at the Probation Department counter when he was informed that he had a phone call.
“The caller was a man I had supervised previously. He told me he had taken pills and he sounded drunk,” Morrill recalled. “He said he had a razor and was going to kill himself. Having supervised him previously on probation, I knew that he had a history of suicide attempts.”
“He was pretty inebriated, swearing at me and calling me every name in the book,” he added. “I was really trying to put calm on the situation and keep him talking until we could get him help. My main concern was to keep him from hurting himself. You don’t want to panic and add emotion to a situation that is already charged.”
Probation Office Manager Jean Moody noticed Morrill’s reaction to the phone call and that he was repeating what the caller was saying to him.
An 11–year Newburyport District Probation employee, who exudes professionalism and appears to maintain a no–nonsense attitude, Moody called the local police on another line.
As Morrill gathered information on the man’s whereabouts, he called it out to Moody who then communicated the information to the police dispatcher on the other line.
Moody said she did not hesitate to get involved. “I just happened to be sitting next to him (Mike). I called the Police Department and stayed on the line with the dispatcher until the police arrived.”
“I never even gave it a thought. It was the common sense thing to do,” Moody said.
This was not the first time the man called Morrill when he was inebriated and distraught. Morrill said he believes that the man is “calling out for help.”
Thanks to Morrill and Moody, the police responded in a matter of minutes to a hotel on Salisbury Beach where the man was holed up.
“He called me from the ambulance on a cell phone to thank me for saving his life,” Morrill said. “He left a message on my phone later saying that he got stabilized, detoxed, is on a different medication, and has a new counselor.”
Morrill said it is uncommon for the office to receive this type of call. He said his goal was to “keep him talking” in an attempt to prevent the man from harming himself.
“In Probation, we deal with a lot of traumatic cases. My response that day may have been based on a combination of things, including training,” said Morrill who credited a training session on suicide prevention he attended at the Massachusetts Probation Service Training Academy in Clinton.
Newburyport District Court Chief Probation Officer Patricia Kane lauded her employees for their success in saving a life.
“I think they did an exceptional job. What they did demonstrates what probation is all about. It was a real collaborative effort and it shows how Probation employees go above and beyond their duties in many different ways,” Kane said.