NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Multiple families with loved ones involved in officer-involved shootings are questioning if their relatives would still be alive had the Metro Nashville Police Department utilized its mental health co-response team.

In early October, an officer shot and killed 30-year-old Joshua Kersey after he allegedly held a housemate hostage at knifepoint. Kersey’s sister, however, said he was unarmed and that she wanted police to help her brother, not take him from her.

Metro police said they had negotiators on the way, but the crisis intervention team was at another scene and wasn’t able to respond.

About nine months before Kersey’s death, a SWAT officer shot and killed a 54-year-old sound engineer, Mark Capps, while serving a warrant after his family said he held them at gunpoint. Capps’ family also said he was unarmed at the time of his death and was in the midst of a mental health emergency.

Capps’ wife has filed a civil lawsuit, claiming that law enforcement is responsible for Capps’ “unnecessary death.”

This federal civil rights lawsuit on behalf of Mark Capps’s estate seeks justice for Mark’s unnecessary death at the hands of the Metro Nashville Police Department.  As the complaint alleges, at the time Mark was shot and killed he was in the midst of a mental health emergency that had been aggravated by his brother’s recent death.  Because of prior tragedies such as the Landon Eastep debacle, MNPD was well aware of the need to treat mental health emergencies differently. Indeed, MNPD had even implemented the “Partners in Care” program for just this purpose.  However, rather than utilize a Partners in Care team MNPD sent a SWAT team in to deal with Mark – with predictable results.  MNPD must now be held accountable to Mark’s family for this preventable disaster

Mark Capps estate’s legal team

The organization Partners in Care is a co-response team that works to provide police with alternatives when dealing with calls involving acute mental health crisis.

After officers stabilize a scene, Partners in Care’s goal is for clinicians to assess the subject and refer them to the most appropriate care.

This week, it was announced that Partners in Care has expanded to include MNPD’s Madison precinct. The program is set to operate in six precincts, with plans to take it citywide over the next six months.

Nashville is piloting its first mental health crisis team that will respond to 911 calls without law enforcement. The team is called Responders Engaged And Committed to Help (REACH), serving as a partnership between the Mental Health Cooperative, the Metro Nashville government, and the Nashville Fire Department’s EMS division.

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REACH is targeted toward non-violent calls with the goal of reducing response times and lowering the number of mental health patients taken to the hospital in an ambulance.

“I’m eager to see us move beyond pilot phase based on data because the data right now is showing that they’re having the intended effect,” said Nashville Mayor Freddie O’Connell.

“Almost a year and half after the program’s launch, we know that it has been incredibly successful in redirecting individuals to important crisis and mental health resources, instead of placing them under arrest,” Pam Womack, the CEO of Mental Health Cooperative, said in a statement. “The Metro Nashville Police Department has been amazing through this process, demonstrating a real commitment to learning and prioritizing mental health within their mission to protect and serve the people of Nashville.”