Brooklyn Park utilizing new mental health response team on certain 911 calls

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Authorities in Brooklyn Park are now utilizing a newly formed mental health alternative response team on certain emergency calls.

Wednesday afternoon, Brooklyn Park police and Hennepin County officials discussed the new team and how it works.

Officials say the team consists of a Hennepin County social worker and a North Memorial community paramedic to better help 911 callers at the right time and reach people before their concerns become an emergency.

According to the Brooklyn Park Police Department, the team is dispatched to various mental health calls in Brooklyn Park and provides an alternative to a police response in certain non-violent situations like welfare checks, low-level mental health or substance use concerns, social service needs or physical health care requests.

The team is part of a two-year pilot program that currently only operates from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, Brooklyn Park Police Chief Mark Bruley said, but the goal of the pilot program is to see how to best expand the alternative response team. Brooklyn Park was chosen because data showed it has the highest number of 911 calls that can be served by a response other than police, fire or emergency medical services.

“We’ve had conversations about expanding the program, to be honest with you we signed letters and looked for alternate funding to expand the program, again to try to expand the hours in Brooklyn Park and expand the reach. I know that my peers in other cities like Brooklyn Center, Edina and others have reached out to me just because they’ve heard this program, they hear it on the radio and they are understanding the value that it provides, so I would anticipate that is gonna grow pretty quickly,” Bruley said.

The chief credited the county as being proactive in seeking new ways to help and also the city’s willingness to try something new to be the best.

“Hennepin County is working on the front end,” said Adesola Oni, area manager for Hennepin County’s criminal justice behavioral health initiative. “Alternative Response is one way we hope to improve outcomes for the people we serve, and connect residents to the services and supports they need.”

“When they brought it to us and said, ‘Hey, we kinda wanna do something different with mental health,’ my immediate response was, ‘Yes, I’m with you, let’s try something else’ because what’s working now is not good enough for our residents to be honest with you, it’s putting our police officers in a very difficult position and our resources are very limited, and most importantly, it’s not serving those that are suffering from mental health the best,” Bruley said.

Bruley also noted the number of mental health-related 911 calls is increasing each year and the alternative response team is able to be sent directly to scenes by 911 dispatchers or called in by police if officers determine the team’s help is needed.

The alternative response team is a collaboration between Hennepin County, the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office, Brooklyn Park Police and North Memorial Health.