Police Department Brings Social workers on mental health calls

When someone is in the midst of a mental health crisis, concerned individuals may call 911. However, police officers on their own may not be the best response to a mental health call, and the call can easily result in an unnecessary arrest. Police in Columbus, Ohio, are now taking a different approach to mental health calls.

Reducing Arrests

As part of a partnership between Franklin County’s 24-hour mental health crisis center Netcare and the Columbus Police Department, police officers and social workers respond together to calls that may involve someone in a mental health crisis. These mental health response teams consist of a police officer and a social worker. There are currently five teams working as part of the program.

The aim of the program is to increase the instances where a mental health professional responds to a mental health call. The ultimate goal is to reduce the number of arrests that result from mental health calls. Frequently, a social worker may be able to deescalate the situation and help an individual connect with services rather than an arrest. In some cases, individuals in crisis may volunteer to be transported to a hospital. In other cases, a “pink slip” may be issued, which will give doctors, police, or others the power to have a person hospitalized temporarily against their will if they present a danger to themselves or others. None of these solutions includes involvement with the criminal justice system.

The program has found that on any particular mental health call, there is a 50% chance that the person will be hospitalized for a mental health intake. During its trial phase, the teams responded to 7,000 calls. There were 864 calls that resulted in transports, only 6 of which resulted in someone being taken to jail. That’s a rate of .07%. Compared to the 10% rate of arrest among standard patrol officers, it is clear that the teams are making a difference.

If you or a loved one has a mental disability and has been arrested or convicted of a crime, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side. Elizabeth Kelley specializes in representing individuals with mental disabilities. To schedule a consultation call (509) 991-7058.

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