Empowering Communities: Award-Winning Crisis Intervention and Mental Health Advocacy with Piper Davidson


The need for robust mental health support and effective crisis intervention strategies has never been more critical. Luckily, individuals like Piper Davidson, Manager of Criminal Justice Services at OneEighty, are leading the charge in advocating for better crisis intervention and mental health support. Piper shares insights from her experience overseeing mental health programs at the county jail in Wooster and her involvement in Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training for law enforcement officers. 

“I’ve been working at the jail in the role of Mental Health Coordinator for eight and a half years. In that time, our jail population went from about 2% being identified as having a severe, persistent mental illness to somewhere close to 20% now,” shared Piper. “So we’ve seen a very significant increase in the inmate population presenting with untreated severe mental illnesses.”

With a deep understanding of the challenges faced by individuals dealing with mental health issues, Piper’s role extends beyond mere supervision; she is a passionate advocate and a catalyst for positive change. Let’s delve into Piper’s journey and explore how her efforts are shaping a brighter, more supportive future for those in need in Wooster.

Piper Davidson’s Impact on Crisis Intervention and Mental Health Support

In Wooster, Ohio, the rise of the homeless population has brought with it significant community concerns, particularly regarding addiction and mental health issues.  

Piper passionately explains, “Our local law enforcement officers deal with the same people very frequently – for trespassing, disorderly conduct, or other minor charges. These same individuals are in and out of the emergency room here locally, just decompensating to the point where their mental health becomes a crisis situation.” Piper operates at the heart of these challenges, working within the county jail where she encounters ‘frequent flyers’ – individuals caught in a cycle of incarceration due to their untreated mental health conditions. 

Piper’s role extends far beyond the confines of the jail. She has spearheaded a multidisciplinary team to develop a community-based plan to address these complex issues comprehensively. One of this team’s key initiatives is the Assisted Outpatient Treatment (AOT) Program, which has garnered a significant community response. This program seeks to provide life-changing experiences for individuals struggling with mental health issues, especially those in constant crisis who frequently interface with law enforcement or the justice system. Collaborating closely with Krista Kidney, OneEighty’s Director of Housing and Homelessness Services, along with community partners from law enforcement, Wayne & Holmes Counties Mental Health and Recovery Board, The Counseling Center, and Wooster Community Hospital, Piper focuses on building solid relationships with individuals to guide them toward stable housing and the treatment they desperately need.

The issue of homelessness intertwined with mental health challenges is not just a statistic for Piper and her team—it’s a daily reality they confront with empathy and determination. As Piper continues to bridge gaps between law enforcement, healthcare providers, and community services, OneEighty’s mission to solve community problems and extend a helping hand becomes ever more crucial. Through Piper’s leadership and the collaborative efforts of dedicated professionals, hope and healing are becoming tangible realities for those in need in the Wooster community.

Piper’s Role in Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) Training and Support

Piper’s extensive experience managing Criminal Justice Services has highlighted the critical role of Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training in preparing law enforcement officers to handle complex mental health crises effectively. Through specialized training programs, officers are equipped with the knowledge and skills needed to de-escalate situations involving individuals experiencing mental health crises, ultimately promoting safer interactions and reducing unnecessary incarcerations.

Piper emphasizes the significance of adopting a trauma-informed approach and cultivating empathy among first responders when engaging with individuals in crisis. Piper believes in a personal approach, “How can I help? What do you need from me? Taking that sort of trauma-informed, personal approach to initially engaging with people, because you need to build that trust, that rapport initially and very quickly.” By understanding the underlying trauma and mental health conditions, officers can respond with compassion and provide appropriate support, avoiding potential escalation and ensuring the well-being of everyone involved.

Piper’s frontline experience reveals the escalating numbers of individuals grappling with severe mental illnesses within communities. NAMI reports that approximately 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. experiences mental illness each year, highlighting the pervasive nature of mental health challenges in our communities. Factors such as substance addiction, including methamphetamine use, have contributed to this trend, highlighting the urgent need for comprehensive mental health support services.

Piper advocates for normalizing conversations around mental health conditions to reduce stigma and increase public awareness. By fostering open dialogue and promoting access to mental health resources, communities can better support individuals facing mental health challenges and prevent crises from escalating into detrimental situations.

Piper’s Award and Recognition in Crisis Intervention

Piper’s dedication and achievements in crisis intervention have not gone unnoticed. Recently, she was honored with the CIT (Crisis Intervention Team) Health Professional of the Year award in the state of Ohio, a testament to her exceptional contributions in the field. Piper highlights, “This award has given me an opportunity to really speak more about the importance of training officers, through the CIT program, because of the increasing number of people that we’re seeing in our communities with persistent severe mental illnesses.” Piper’s role as the Manager of Criminal Justice Services at OneEighty has allowed her to collaborate with community partners to make a significant impact in addressing mental health crises within the Wooster community. 

This award highlights Piper’s leadership and innovative approaches to crisis intervention, particularly in dealing with high recidivism rates and homelessness among individuals with severe mental illnesses. Through her work at OneEighty, Piper has developed a team of dedicated community partners working together to implement community-based plans to address these complex issues effectively.

Beyond her professional duties, Piper actively engages with the community to raise awareness about mental health challenges and the importance of crisis intervention training. “I believe that we all, at some point, will either be touched, or touched by someone close to us, who struggles with a mental illness. And so we have to give ourselves the tools.” Piper encourages everyone to consider, “Where do we go for support? Where do we go for information? Because it’s not just about the individual struggling with the illness. It’s about their support system, too. Their families, their children, their spouses. Where can we, as individual families and as a broader community, go to support each other through this?”

OneEighty Resources

For those encountering a substance use crisis, please call OneEighty’s Substance Use Crisis hotline, available 24 hours per day, 365 days per year, at 330.466.0678. For other resources, click the links below: 

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Her efforts haven’t gone unnoticed; Piper recently earned the prestigious CIT Professional of the Year award in the state of Ohio for her dedication to Crisis Intervention Training (CIT) and her innovative approaches to mental health care.

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