Launched September 3, the City of Tulsa 911 Mental Health Collaborative is a new initiative that quickly connects non-emergent mental health-related 911 calls to a new member of the 911 dispatch center team – a mental health crisis expert.
911 callers in psychiatric distress can be complex and draining on first responder resources. Diverting these callers to a mental health professional enhances resolution through evidence-based assessment, de-escalation and rapid connection to behavioral health services and resources. This collaborative is made possible through a partnership between the City of Tulsa 911 Public Safety Communications (PSC), Tulsa Police, Family & Children’s Services Community Outreach Psychiatric Emergency Services (COPES) and the Tulsa Area United Way.
“Partnering with Family & Children’s Services and having immediate access to mental health professionals gives 911 dispatchers and first responders the ability to provide additional resources and aid to help the community,” said Belinda McGhie, City of Tulsa 911 PSC systems manager.
Nationally, serious mental health crises handled by law enforcement continue to increase; but most individuals experiencing a mental health crisis do not require law enforcement intervention or activation of 911 responders. COPES, the local provider for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, is Tulsa’s telephone and mobile crisis service for children and adults experiencing emotional or behavioral distress or psychiatric emergency. COPES mental health professionals are available 24/7 by calling 918.744.4800.
“Most people don’t know where to go for help, and they call 911. Through this collaborative, we will be able to address the immediate mental health crisis and connect callers to ongoing mental health services. COPES will perform follow-ups to check on an individual’s well-being, connect them with resources and provide support during the crisis resolution phase. Without COPES involvement, there would be no other contact made after the 911 call,” said Amanda Bradley, COPES senior program director.
The City of Tulsa 911 Mental Health Collaborative is designed after the Harris County (Houston) 911 Center, the first 911 dispatch center in the country to include mental health professionals onsite. Since 2015, this model has led to a decrease in non-emergency mental health-related calls for Houston’s first responders. In turn, the decrease of personnel for non-emergency responses has translated into cost savings and cost avoidance for Houston.