May 18th, 2022
The Mobile Police Department is improving its response on mental health crisis calls by training sworn officers to effectively use mental health intervention and de-escalation techniques. Leading the police-mental health collaboration, the department’s Office of Strategic Initiatives is closely collaborating with AltaPointe’s Behavioral Health Crisis Center.
“We teach the officers what mental illness looks like and how to manage the call by knowing what to say and what to do,” said Dr. Cindy Gipson, associate director of AltaPointe Health Crisis Services. “Officers learn how to intervene because, in some incidents, the person may be a danger to themselves or others.”
Police officers are usually called first when there is a mental health crisis and can help to calm the situation. That’s why, next month, seven Mobile police officers will travel to the Harris County Sheriff’s Office in Houston, Texas to receive training to become certified mental health trainers for the Mobile Police Department. Once certified, they will be able to train other officers back in Mobile.
“The crime committed, and the mental health capacity of the individual taken into custody must be treated separately,” said City of Mobile Public Safety Director Lawrence Battiste. “The arrest will not resolve the problem if the person is mentally unstable.”
Using grant funding, the Mobile Police Department is currently setting up a pilot program that would dispatch a co-response team in the Third Precinct. A police officer and mental health clinician will be paired and respond to mental health crisis calls together. They will work to divert individuals in need of treatment from ever going to jail. In turn, this can improve outcomes of such incidents.
AltaPointe’s Behavioral Health Crisis Center opened a year ago as the first of its kind in Alabama. It is a 24-hour facility focusing on urgent care and rapid stabilization with a 23-hour unit, and an extended observation unit.