A pilot program could leave first responders better equipped with additional training, tools and resources to handle the steady volume of mental health-related calls that come through emergency dispatch.
After months of discussions that included behavioral health professionals and the safety forces, City Council put $100,000 into this year’s budget for a “hybrid” Crisis Response Pilot Program. The program is expected to begin with the training of two police officers per shift, along with paramedics in the fire department.
“We estimated that mental health calls amounted to about 15 percent, or 470, for 2019, averaging a little more than one a day,” Chief Administrative Officer Jeri Chaikin told council in a Feb. 8 work session held online.
“Some days there might not be any calls. Other days, there might be two -- or three.”
And that was before the COVID-19 pandemic, as figures for last year were still being compiled on 911 calls -- both emergency and otherwise -- that include disturbances, family or neighbor disputes, trespassing, a suspicious person, substance abuse, addiction or suicide threats.