NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — During a crisis, it’s police officers who are often the first point of contact for people in need of help, but with mental health at the forefront in Nashville, one program is seeing a demand like never before.
“The numbers are higher than I was anticipating. We’re at over 1,100 contacts already just for the pilot program in just two precincts and about 40% of those go into full crisis assessment,” said Michael Randolph, Program Manager for the Partners in Care program.
Randolph explained a crisis assessment is a case where someone is at risk of harming themselves or others.
Last year, Metro Nashville Police Department introduced the “Partner in Care” program. It combines mental health professionals with Metro officers to respond to 911 emergencies when needed. The pilot program has been up and running for nearly 12 months now, and Randolph explained looking at the data, it’s clear that the program is needed.
“Around 70% are housed either with a rental or their own home and it really, it kind of shows us that we are seeing a population that wasn’t really being served in the mental health system before,” explained Randolph.
The pilot program was launched in the wake of several police shootings involving people who are suffering from a mental health crisis. Since the pandemic, mental health has taken a front seat, and it’s been a priority among police.
“As more and more officers feel more comfortable talking about mental health, makes them a little more conscious of when we go out into the field, and knowing what they are dealing with the public and their mental health issues,” explained Lt. Anthony Brooks, with the Metro Nashville Police Department.
The program has been deemed successful, with only 4% of assessment calls leading to an arrest.
“It tells us that there’s a greater need for it than maybe been we thought in the beginning. We knew that there was going to be a need before we started the program, but as we start to see all the different things that the officers are responding to and the difference they’re making,” Lt. Brooks said.
Earlier this month, Mayor John Cooper announced new funding going towards mental health. The $600,000 investment will go towards offering treatment for low-level and non-violent offenses, rather than jail time.