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At the Houston Police Department, a licensed clinical social worker or caseworker rides along when police answer an emergency call regarding a person presumed to be mentally ill. Some 30 of those ride-along professionals now work out of that department's relatively new Mental Health Division.
The U.S. Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), which supports the Houston and Madison initiatives, is also monitoring other BJA-supported "specialized police response" demonstration sites in Los Angeles; Portland, Maine; Salt Lake City, Utah; and the University of Florida. Together, the six pilot programs are expected to provide new law enforcement tools and techniques aimed at steering mentally ill persons suspected to be lawbreakers toward medical treatment whenever that's deemed more appropriate than locking them up.
Houston Police Department cites the case of one chronically mentally ill man with schizophrenia on whom the county had spent $142,241 over the course of 18 arrests, 32 separate contacts with the police, 12 separate psychiatric clinic admissions, and jail and prison stays that, combined, lasted for about eight months.
There's "the person who put the TV in a cart at Walmart, didn't try to hide that fact and walked straight out the door with the TV," Henry said. "When the sales clerk caught up with him, he said 'I'm receiving satellite communications from God. This TV doesn't belong to you.'"
"In the past, we threw that person in jail. We focused on the criminal component of the event, rather than looking at the person ... He's got an active diagnosis of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. And it used to be that after we arrested that person, and then let that person out of jail, we'd say just 'Good luck.'"
The officer, for example, does a criminal background check, while the ride-along counselor, social worker or caseworker is trolling his or her laptop for medical records and signs of where medical treatment fell apart.
Whether a crisis team rolls out depends mainly upon answers to the standard questions posed by 911 dispatchers, which are designed to assess the mental stability of individuals who are the subject of emergency calls.
"When an officer and a clinician arrive at someone's home or someone's scene, they are very empathetic. They are not charging in. It's not uncommon for an officer and clinician to sit at dining room table to talk "a distressed person" through it for an hour and a half. No one needed an arrest warrant. They needed someone to listen."
"The politicians want to hear the data [about outcomes and cost-savings]," she said. "But real people in the community--myself included--want to hear about how all of this impacts individuals.
originally posted by: aboutface
They tried this in Toronto, but unless I'm mistaken, it was for budgetary reasons that the program was discontinued. I think they can sometimes diffuse a situation that could easily escalate and get out of hand.