Los Angeles Moves Forward with Diverting Some 911 Calls to Mental Health Professional

Dive Brief:

  • A Los Angeles program designed to divert nonviolent 911 calls related to people experiencing homelessness to unarmed mental health professionals saw 173 deployments in its first five weeks, as of early March, according to the mayor's office.
  • The Crisis Incident Response through Community-Led Engagement (CIRCLE) pilot began in Hollywood and Venice in late January, making crisis-response teams available 24/7. The crisis-response teams include an outreach worker, a mental health or behavioral health clinician, and a community ambassador – in addition to a daytime team that builds trust with the unhoused community and refers community members to service providers.
  • “We have to stop expecting police officers to answer for every type of social situation,” Los Angeles City Council President Nury Martinez said in an email. “Police officers are not social workers, outreach workers, mental health specialists, or what our community needs when facing a non-violent crisis.”
CJR's Howard Henderson says: “It’s going to provide an opportunity for credentialed, experienced professionals in the space of social work to respond to calls that sometimes, unfortunately, end in the wrong situations."

“Police officers are trained to control situations more so than to understand the underlying issues that created those situations.”

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