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Answering the name: Changing how 911 responds to mental health crises

San Francisco’s roughest neighborhoods can appear dominated by the homeless, the mentally disturbed, and people brazenly utilizing medicine. But San Francisco Mayor London Breed is reducing the police funds.

Correspondent John Blackstone requested, “Don’t you need more police on the street to change that?”

“We gotta look at things differently,” she replied. “The challenges that people face are not what they used to be. And a police response doesn’t solve all of these issues.”

So now, in San Francisco many calls to 911 not deliver armed cops; as an alternative, dispatchers ship what the metropolis calls a Street Crisis Response Team educated to take care of mental health points.

Stephanie Chiri, a behavioral therapist, is on a type of groups: “When someone is experiencing a mental health crisis, especially psychosis, it can look scary to somebody to see a person who’s talking to themselves or yelling into the sky.”

“It’s scary, you call the police,” mentioned Blackstone.

“Now you can call and ask for us, too,” Chiri replied.

In 2019 San Francisco Police answered greater than 50,000 calls associated to mental health.

“In our city, and I think throughout the nation, a lot of extra jobs and tasks have just been given to law enforcement because there’s nobody else,” mentioned Fire Captain Simon Pang, who’s answerable for the disaster response groups. Members come from the metropolis’s health and fireplace departments. They don’t carry weapons.

“People living in the streets often have a history of complex traumas,” mentioned Pang, “and law enforcement, somebody with a gun can be very triggering and potentially escalating for someone like that.”

So far this year, nationwide greater than 50 individuals with mental sickness have been shot and killed by police. One research concluded that just about 25 % of deadly police encounters concerned mental sickness.

Chiri mentioned, “Having a mental health crisis is not a crime. And it’s not necessarily a public safety issue. So, having our team here to be able to respond to those non-violent mental health calls is critical to free up the police to address what are actually public safety concerns.”

A Street Crisis Response Team attends to somebody in want. 

CBS News

As effectively as a mental health skilled like Chiri, every disaster response workforce can have paramedics like Richard Platt and Lesley Fong, and one member like Michael Marchiselli. He’s referred to as a peer counselor as a result of, effectively, he is been there, achieved that. “When somebody says, ‘Do you have a license or degree?’ I think the streets and drug addiction have been my degree!” Marchiselli laughed.

Platt mentioned, “There will be limits to what we can do when it comes to our personal interactions. Michael doesn’t have some of that; he is able to use his gut in a way that we usually can’t.”

Jermain Reeves was residing on the streets of San Francisco’s Tenderloin District. Blackstone mentioned, “You look pretty good right now.”

“Thank you,” Reeves mentioned.

“Wasn’t always quite like this, recently?”

“No, actually it was the opposite.”

Earlier this year, Reeves, determined, sought assist from one in all the avenue disaster groups. They discovered him a spot to reside. “It was a godsend, and it was right on time,” he mentioned. “And you know, it was the first people actually listen to me.”

He mentioned he would by no means go to the police for assist: “Like, if a police shows up right now, you guys wouldn’t think anything of it. My heart would start beating fast. I would wonder, like, What are they over here for? I’ll be looking around see if there are some other Black people. It’s just not a good situation that ends for people that look like me.”

With police reform now a difficulty nationwide, applications are being developed throughout the nation like the one in San Francisco.

Blackstone requested Mayor Breed, “So, what this program is doing is taking away some calls that used to go to the police, taking some duties away from the police. Is this ‘defunding’ the police?”

“Well, I don’t like to label it,” she replied. “The issue here is, we have to think about policing differently than we ever have before, especially in light of what we see the data shows us. The goal is to meet people where they are, to develop rapport, to have a conversation, to treat them like human beings no matter what they’re going through, and to make sure you build trust within seconds. And that can make all the difference.”


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Story produced by John Goodwin. Editor: Ben McCormick. 


More from John Blackstone: 

Crisis groups answer mental health calls in SF…