Mental Health Advocates Want 911 Linked with Crisis Response Teams

October 11, 2018 10:20 PM

The Carver County Attorney will not file charges against the two deputies who shot and killed a Chanhassen teenager this summer.

Archer Amorosi, 16, lived with mental illness.
 
In July, investigators say his mother called deputies to their home when her son was making threats and holding a weapon.
 
He died from gunshots fired by two deputies. Carver County Attorney Mark Metz said the deputies tried to their best to de-escalate the situation, but Amorosi charged at them while armed with a hatchet, and they fired.

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RELATED: Carver County Attorney Announces No Charges in the Fatal Shooting of Archer Amorosi

"He said shoot. You can hear on the body cams - [Archer] says shoot," said Metz. "No less than 20 times in total, these officers trying to command him to drop the weapons."

Carver County has set aside $100,000 to make sure all deputies receive specialized training to help those in crisis.

Most deputies have also been trained on de-escalation.

Law enforcement agencies all across the state say they're seeing a drastic rise in mental health crisis calls for help.

Maple Grove police average more than 1,100 mental health crisis calls a year compared to an average of 800 just a couple years ago.

Rochester responds to at least three crisis calls a day.


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In cities and counties across Minnesota, the trainings and approaches differ but the increase in the number of calls is felt everywhere.

The first-ever state law requiring police mental health training went into effect this year.

By 2021, every single officer in Minnesota will have at least 16 hours of mental health-specific training.

"The awareness is way up. Way up," said Sue Abderholden, executive director for NAMI, MN.

She applauds the beginning stages of mandatory police training but thinks our communities have not yet streamlined the ideal response to these calls.

There are currently more than 40 mental health crisis response phone numbers families can call when they need help.

"Why would we have a separate mental health number that very few people know instead of making sure that our current emergency services can connect people to the right treatment?" she said.

Abderholden says lawmakers allowed 911 to link with mental health crisis response teams back in 2009. Still, nearly a decade later, few are taking advantage of it.  

"We really should have the 911 operators connecting people with mental health crisis teams instead of just automatically sending out police and ambulances," said Abderholden.

St Paul has already linked 911 dispatch to mental health crisis response teams. In addition, in March of this year it launched a Mental Health Unit, which is dedicated to helping people with mental health issues after those calls for service doubled over the past decade.

Two licensed social workers are also working full time in the unit to help review cases and respond to calls alongside officers who have all completed Crisis Intervention Team training.

In Minneapolis, mental health workers are embedded in certain precincts and the department is right now working to expand the program. All MPD officers also complete 40 hours of Crisis Intervention Team training.

The Rochester Police Department is averaging over 900 mental health calls per year and has participated in CIT for the last 12 years. This department has also embedded a social worker into the department within the last year.

In Plymouth, officers complete a variety of trainings to learn the latest best practices. The department regularly brings in speakers, including members of the public who have experienced mental health crises in the past. All officers in Plymouth complete 1 day of CIT and 19 officers have completed the full 40-hour course.

The Maple Grove Police Department works with the city's social services department and by the end of 2019, all officers will have completed the full 40-hour CIT course.  

Anoka County provides initial and ongoing training to deputies as well as CIT training for jail and patrol staff.

Dakota County deputies all go through the full 40-hour CIT training course.

In April, Scott County launched a Mobile Response Service to assist in mental health calls and Ramsey County officials say they're currently working on creating a new model geared toward a specialized approach to serving those in crisis.

Hennepin County deputies also receive CIT training even though they are not the primary responders to mental health calls in the county. Still, since mental health crisis situations can happen anywhere, jail staff are trained as well as detention deputies.

For tips on speaking to officers about a mental health crisis, click here.

Credits

Katherine Johnson

Copyright 2018 - KSTP-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company

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