The Mesa Police Department is making a big change in the way it handles mental health emergencies and people who are ready to harm themselves or others.
The Crisis Response Team is the department’s newest specialty unit, focusing on trying to get mental health patients help--instead of jail time.
CRT leader Detective Amanda Stamps says 60 percent of calls to Mesa Police are mental health calls, totaling 4,000 a year. Of those, 2,500 are suicide threats.
"They're significantly risky calls because the person is known to be dangerous to themselves, to others." said Detective Stamps.
She says patrol officers are overwhelmed, and while they have a broad range of training, it didn’t seem appropriate not to have specialists in the field who could respond.
"You can see what's happening around the world, when people are in crisis they make bad decisions, they make rash decisions and people get hurt." said Detective Stamps.
CRT officers have another level of training, are experts in crisis negotiation and their number one tool is time to listen, to talk out the problem and to navigate the field of resources available to help.
The team is only about two months old and already Detective Stamps believes members have made a difference. She says patrol officers call in for the extra help every day.
The department's intelligence unity also uses the team to check on people on their watch list who could pose a greater threat.
The hope is that changing the way they respond to mental health calls stops a weapon from being pulled on an officer or by an officer.
"When we know ahead of time going in to the call that it involves something with mental health we can plan it a little better. That is ultimately our goal," said Stamps.
The CRT is a police resource. If you or someone you know needs mental health assistance, you should still call the Crisis Response Network Hotline at 800-631-1314, or call 911 for emergencies.