TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) – The Pima County Sheriff’s Department and city of Tucson are working to address mental health needs in the community while taking pressure off law enforcement.
”When someone calls into 911, they feel they need a quick response, but it might not be the correct fit for our firefighters or police officers to respond,” said Sarah Launius, the director for the Community Safety Health and Wellness Program in Tucson.
The program was created last year and aims to bridge the gap between local agencies and address mental health, substance abuse and homelessness.
“Make the connections up front to prevent those calls from going there in the first place to focus on helping before it gets to the crisis stage,” said Liana Perez, the Deputy City Manager.
The Tucson Police Department said it will soon have more than 80 community safety officers to handle lower-level calls.
“They will be a critical component with how we address some of these issues,” Perez said.
The Pima County Sheriff’s Department launched a ‘Crisis Call Transfer’ program in the fall of 2020. 91- Dispatch Supervisor, Joanne Amstutz, said the program has been successful. It gives dispatchers the ability to transfer certain calls to behavioral health experts instead of having deputies respond.
“They’re like ‘Yeah, I don’t have to go to that check welfare call that a mental health professional is going to be called to anyways. I can be out on the street and ready to go respond to that bank robbery or that car theft,’” she said.
Amstutz said one or two crisis professionals may start working from the dispatch center to take calls directly.
“They can read our call texts and get those calls right away because we a lot of times have people disconnect on the transfer so that’s exciting news for us,” she said.
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