Winston-Salem Considers Changes To Emergency Mental Health Response

Winston-Salem Considers Changes To Emergency Mental Health Response

12:39pm Feb 19, 2021
Winston-Salem City Council is reviewing proposed changes that could impact the city's response method for 911 mental health-related calls. KERI BROWN/ WFDD

The city of Winston-Salem is exploring possible changes to how police respond to mental health-related 911 calls.

Currently, when a call comes in for an individual experiencing a mental health crisis in Winston-Salem, local police are dispatched. Officers rely on their crisis intervention training, but some community members say they want to see a different approach, in some cases asking city officials to divert funds from the police department to pay for these programs. It’s an issue numerous cities are grappling with.

Winston-Salem city staff recently provided council members with some options: continue with the current method, dispatch a mental health professional with law enforcement (co-response model), or a mental health provider would go out first and call for law enforcement if needed (alternative response model).

Assistant City Manager Tasha Logan Ford says the first step is analyzing three years of call data. That would then lead to pilot programs.

"At the same time we are doing the call analysis piece, there will also have to be some work done to reach out to service providers so if we need to build this structure, what will it take to do that,” she says.

Ford says another possibility could include a separate number or system used when a loved one is experiencing a mental health crisis.

Her goal is to bring the call volume data that are collected to city council members this spring.

*Follow WFDD’s Keri Brow on Twitter @kerib_news

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