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Midvale Journal

Many mental health emergencies now meet with health professionals instead of police

Apr 30, 2022 11:33AM ● By Erin Dixon

Instead of leaving mental health crises to police officers, mental health professionals are sent in with resources to help people not only in the moment, but to get better. (Image courtesy UPD)

By Erin Dixon | [email protected]

Police are called for more than just criminal matters, but also for people experiencing a mental health crisis.

Unified Police Department (UPD) Midvale Precinct Chief Randy Thomas told Midvale City Council in April how passing mental health cases to other professionals saves money, time and prevents further harm.

“Some [people] call several times a day,” Thomas said. “We try to get them to a hospital or they get an assessment, then they often get released back within our grid within hours.”

“[At] $72/hour, a two officer call [is] $220/per call,” Thomas said.

Police officers are receiving more education about mental health, but their work load is dominated by preventing and solving crimes. Multiple calls from the same person means other people aren’t getting the help they need.

Sgt. Jodie Sampson, head of the Metro Mental Health Unified Police told the City Journals that

“When a patrol officer gets a mental health related call actively threatening suicide or violence, patrol doesn’t know what to do.”

UPD is building a Metro Mental Health Unit that can focus on mental illness cases and not only help in immediate crisis but provide resources so people can get better.

“The patrol officers will defer that to the mental health officer,” Thomas said. “If the mental health unit gets involved and does a follow-up, oftentimes I don’t hear from them.”

Metro Mental Health’s goal is to “keep them away from jails and hospitals,” Sampson said. “Someone who is suffering from mental illness doesn’t need to be put in jail.”

If someone has a mental illness, it doesn’t erase the crime. But, the person is less likely to commit a further crime if they also get help when they are prosecuted.

“We connect them to resources to help the families,” Sampson said. “If they need to be charged with anything, we walk them through the court system. “

Sampson says in the three years the Mental Health Unit has been around the mental health call rate has dropped by 85%.

“We have people who call several times a day,” Sampson said. “We build a relationship with them and it stops the constant calling.”