DENVER (AP) — Christian Glass, a geology nerd and painter, suffered a mental health crisis when he called 911 to unstuck a car in a mountain town in Colorado last year. was a young man who was
When the sheriff’s deputy arrived, the sheriff refused to get out of the car saying a supernatural being was following him, body camera video revealed. The police yelled, threatened, and appeased. Mr. Glass made a heart shape with his hands and prayed, “Lord, please don’t break the window.”
They did, and the 22-year-old boy grabbed a small knife. He was then hit with beanbag bullets, stun guns, and eventually shot dead, and was charged with murder against one of his deputies and manslaughter against another. Ta.
As part of a $19 million settlement with Glass’ parents this spring, Clear Creek County, Colorado, will join clinicians, paramedics and paramedics on behalf of police this month to respond to non-violent mental health crises. Joined the expansion of the US community.
The initiative has spread rapidly in recent years, especially among the nation’s largest cities.
At least 14 of the 20 most populous U.S. cities host or initiate such programs, sometimes called civilian, alternative, or non-police response teams, according to data collected by the Associated Press. . The facilities, which range from New York and Los Angeles to Columbus, Ohio and Houston, collectively boast an annual budget of over $123 million as of June, according to the Associated Press. Funding sources vary.
“If someone is having a mental health crisis, what they need is not law enforcement,” says Tamara of the National Decommissioning Training Center, a private group that trains police to deal with such situations. Mr. Lin says
Aggregated comprehensive data on program effectiveness are not yet available. Their range varies greatly. So is their public acceptance.
In Denver, just an hour’s drive from where Glass was murdered, a program called STAR answered 5,700 calls last year and is often cited as a national model. The total funding from 2021 onwards is $7 million.
In New York, a $40 million-plus annual program called B-HEARD responded to about 3,500 calls last year, but mental health advocates criticize the program for being anemic.
Representatives from several other cities spoke out at a conference in Washington, D.C. this spring about challenges such as staffing shortages and training 911 dispatchers to send unarmed civilians.
Still, authorities in New York and elsewhere see police-free teams as a significant shift in how they respond to people in crisis.
“We truly believe that everything B-HEARD does is a better way for our city to provide care to people,” said Lakisha Grant of the New York City Mayor’s Office of Community Mental Health.
Federal data is incomplete, but various studies and statistics show that mentally ill people make up a significant percentage of those killed by police. The dead are often people of color, but Glass was not.
The alternative approach goes back decades, but got new impetus from calls for broader police reform after the 2020 murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis. There have also been specific pleas for better responses to mental illness following tragedies such as the death of Daniel Prude in Rochester, New York that same year. Prude, fresh out of a psychiatric hospital, was suffocated while running naked on a snowy road when police called for help. He was black, like Floyd.
In a 2022 study involving nine police agencies, reports of emotional distress accounted for about 1% of calls to police. There are no national statistics. According to a long-established civilian response program in Eugene, Oregon, between 3% and 8% of calls from police are diverted. The Vera Legal Institute, a police reform advocacy group, suggests that the replacement team could cover 19% if homelessness, drunkenness and other troubles are included.
In Denver, the STAR team arrives in a van packed with everything from medical supplies to blankets to Cheese It. In one recent instance, they spent three hours—longer than the police would spend—with a Denver newcomer living on the streets. The team helped him get his Colorado ID voucher, groceries, medicines, and took him to a shelter.
“What really matters is meeting the needs of the community and making sure we have the right experts in place to actually solve the problem,” said Carly Ceylon, a former STAR manager who now works elsewhere. say.
STAR answered 44% of calls deemed eligible last year, according to Evan Tompkin, a STAR program specialist.
A Stanford University study found that in the areas STAR served in its early stages, reports of misdemeanor crimes dropped by a third, while violent crimes remained stable. Throughout the three-year program, Tompkin said the police were never called on for assistance due to safety concerns, but they cooperated in directing traffic.
Some observers fear it will raise safety concerns like non-policing programs. Steven Eide, a senior researcher specializing in mental health issues at the Manhattan Institute, a conservative think tank, said that while the idea of keeping police out of psychiatric crisis calls is appealing, “the challenge is identifying those calls. to do,” he says.
In New York, dispatchers decipher the sometimes enthusiastic 911 calls from bystanders and relatives, rather than the person in danger, identifying the potential life-threatening danger of “imminent harm.” must be measured.
Officials said B-HEARD answered 53% of eligible calls in the last six months of 2022, according to the latest available data. However, this was 16% of all calls about mental health crises received within the program’s limited area.
In total, about 2% of the 171,000 such calls made citywide last year were answered by officials.
“Very unimpressive,” says Ruth Lowenkron, an attorney involved in a federal lawsuit seeking changes to B-HEARD.
Grant said the city is considering whether more calls will be covered. Meanwhile, officials said B-HEARD social workers and paramedics were talking to people, social service centers and community health centers, rather than hospitals where armed police traditionally took people at risk. He points out that about half of the reports are resolved by taking them to the There are plans to expand B-HEARD throughout the city.
Grant said the program “provided people with more choice and informed them that they could be safe in their homes and communities if they were connected to the right resources.”
But one day in June, John Barrett wanted to go to the hospital to have his physical and mental health problems checked. He called 911 and called an ambulance, but the police came. Then two others showed up unannounced, wearing bulletproof vests and face masks.
“They totally escalated the situation for me,” recalls Barrett, 45, a former door technician. “I was really terrified considering they and the police were there.”
He said he only found out when he asked that they were with B-HEARD. (Teams may be called up from the scene police, and staff are permitted to wear bulletproof vests, but are not required.)
Barrett said the two underwent medical procedures, including taking blood pressure, and eventually a social worker showed up in plain clothes and asked for a conversation, but Barrett said he wasn’t interested. Eventually, she was taken to hospital by ambulance.
The city’s mental health office says it cannot discuss individual responses.
Barrett said he was shaken by his response to his call for help but returned home from the hospital the next day.
“I’m saving money for my next Uber ride,” he said.
Associated Press reporter Lindsey Whitehurst contributed from Washington. Mr. Peltz reported from New York. Jesse Bedine is a reporting officer for the Associated Press/United States Congressional News Initiative. Report for America is a non-profit national service program that sends journalists to local newsrooms to report on cover-up issues.