Tulsa-area 911 callers in psychiatric distress will now have access to a mental health professional, thanks to a partnership between city public safety agencies and community nonprofits.
The city of Tulsa 911 Mental Health Collaborative launched Sept. 3, according to a Tulsa Police Department news release Wednesday, and is made possible through the Police Department, the city’s 911 Public Safety Communications Department, Family & Children’s Services Community Outreach Psychiatric Services (COPES) and the Tulsa Area United Way.
Amanda Bradley, senior program director at COPES, said that through the collaboration, mental health professionals are able to address callers’ immediate crises and connect them to ongoing mental health services, complete with follow-ups to check on their well-being and connect them to resources and support as their crisis is resolved.
“Most people don’t know where to go for help, and they call 911,” Bradley said in the release. “Without COPES involvement, there would be no other contact made after the 911 call.”
The collaborative is designed after one at the Harris County, Texas, 911 center; the first dispatch center in the country to include mental health professionals onsite. Since its launch, the program has led to cost savings and avoidance for Houston, the release states.
Most individuals experiencing a mental health crisis don’t require law enforcement intervention or emergency medical responders, the release states.
Belinda McGhie, city of Tulsa 911 Public Safety Communications systems manager, said partnering with Family & Children’s Services for immediate access to mental health professionals furthers dispatchers’ and first responders’ ability to provide resources and to aid the community.
“911 callers in psychiatric distress can be complex and draining on first responder resources,” the release says. “Diverting these callers to a mental health professional enhances resolution through evidence-based assessment, de-escalation and rapid connection to behavioral health services and resources.”