Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott (D) has announced a new pilot program that will direct some 911 emergency calls to mental health professionals in lieu of notifying law enforcement officials.
What are the details?
According to a report from WJZ-TV, 911 dispatchers in the city receive about 36 emergency mental health calls a day.
Those calls will now go to dedicated mental health counselors trained in conflict resolution.
“Think about the sheer number of hours that our police officers are actually out dealing with something that they’re not trained to do, versus being out there going after someone who’s committed an armed carjacking,” Scott reasoned.
Last week, The Baltimore Sun reported that the program — 911 Diversion Pilot — “aims to connect callers with the most appropriate resources and responses for their needs.”
The outlet cited a 2015 study from the Treatment Advocacy Center that found “people with untreated mental illness were more likely to die during an altercation with police officers than those without mental illness.”
During a Friday news conference, Scott said, “This pilot is not about defunding the police, but rather acknowledging that police department cannot tackle violent crime, our fire department cannot tackle public health and mental emergencies — and everything else.”
When will the program start?
The new program, the station reported, is set to start in June and will reportedly not cost the city any further monies as the city is said to possess existing contracts with all nonprofit organizations providing the counselors’ care and participation in the new program.
Baltimore resident Denise Mack says that the violence has to stop.
“[I]t’s just getting worse,” she told the station. “You’ve got to go to funerals, got to see your son or nephew lying there. It’s bad. I just wish everyone would get themselves together.”
Homicides in the embattled city, WJZ reported, have risen 15% year over year.