PHOENIX — A grassroots group aiming to shape Phoenix's proposed Community Advocacy Program has drafted a letter with 18 demands.
The Neighborhood-Organized Crisis Assistance Program Team, also known as NOCAP, plans to deliver the letter to Phoenix City Council during a budget hearing in April.
Two weeks ago Phoenix City Council first discussed spending $15 million for the Community Advocacy Program in the 2021-2022 fiscal year.
The funding would pay for 19 vans with more than 130 civilian crisis interventionists. They will operate around the clock responding to 911 calls involving homelessness, substance abuse, mental health, or behavioral health issues.
The counselors could deescalate situations and help people find treatment and community resources. City officials say this would allow officers to concentrate on crimes and public safety issues.
NOCAP members believe the city has only provided a vague explanation of the program, and people in the community, who would utilize the 911 mental and behavior health services, should have input.
The letter also includes a demand to separate the Community Assistance Program from both police and fire departments to make it a separate branch of public safety.
“No communication with ICE [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] or police is the number one most imperative,” said NOCAP’s Amy Meglio. “People can't be afraid that an undocumented aunt will be taken away because someone is having a mental health crisis.“
NOCAP also wants a minimum of two individuals to respond to each call, one skilled medical professional and one responder certified in social sciences and behavioral health. Another of the 18 demands says responders should not carry weapons of any kind, including pepper spray and tasers.
NOCAP is asking key leaders in the mental health community to sign the letter. They plan to present the letter to the city council at a budget meeting in April.
A spokeswoman for Phoenix's mayor says many of NO-CAP's requests are already part of their proposal.