Gilbert Police Department creates crisis response team to focus on mental health calls
GILBERT, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) - There’s a big focus on mental health across the country, and here in the Valley, one police department has a newly created crisis response team.
The Gilbert Police Department says the team’s goal is to spend more time on calls with people who may be struggling, and they’ve been busy. The department is one of the first in the East Valley to create a crisis response team. The team launched in October and is already taking up to 16 calls a day. These officers respond to calls from people with mental illnesses, domestic violence, substance abuse, or addiction problems.
Officer Calyssa Wilkerson is one of three people on the team. By the end of the year, it will consist of four officers and a sergeant. “There are a lot more mental health issues we are becoming aware of,” she said. “A typical response maybe in the past would be to divert people through hospitals or through criminal justice system and sometimes that is not getting people in touch with the resources they need.”
“All of our officers have 40 hours of crisis intervention training. We also go through negotiations training for crisis negations as well as de-escalation,” said Wilkerson. Patrol officers will still be dispatched to calls for a quick response, but once it’s identified as a crisis and less of a criminal situation, that is when their team will be called. “We do also have calls where it’s non-emergency where they may specifically request a crisis officer,” Wilkerson said.
She says they recently received a call from a suicidal woman who needed help. “An individual saw on our social media we started this crisis response team,” she said. “I was able to respond and get her in touch with services she needed.”
Wilkerson says this is an excellent way to have the community feel more connected to those in blue. “Assuring that even though we look like law enforcement, and are dressed in uniform we are just here to help and just here to get people where they want to go,” she said.
If you need to reach the crisis response team, email email@example.com or call (480) 503-6500. If it’s an emergency, call 911.
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