HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — In the wake of recent police shootings nationwide, the Capital City is looking to redefine how it responds to crisis calls, sometimes not even sending out officers at all.
There are three different types of teams that go out and respond to mental health calls. Some go without the police present while others are side-by-side with police with some of the more difficult calls.
“It’s working, it’s definitely working,” said Patricia McIntosh, director of community safety and wellness.
At a crime scene, the Hartford Emergency Assistance Response Team (HEARTeam) are the emergency responders that do not wear a uniform or carry a gun. They are mental health workers and peers responding to 911 calls, many times without the police.
“78% of them were without the police, the others were with the police, so what that means is they are providing a service, these are calls that would sit in cue for police to respond to because they are not the most acute calls,” McIntosh said.
They have two community renewal teams, one for adults and one for juveniles. Their goal is to deescalate calls before police are needed. They usually respond within six to 10 minutes of the 911 call.
“Agitated person perhaps indecent exposure, those kinds of calls. I need assistance and there is not necessarily an element of, it has to be a police response,” McIntosh said.
“In the city we have the ability to respond to calls involving mental health or emotional distress with folks who are trained to do that work. It is a burden off of our police department,” said Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin.
They started boots on the ground April 11 and as of this week, they’ve already passed 100 calls. There is a third team, a mobile crisis team, from the state that responds to some of the most difficult calls in Hartford.
“On much more acute mental health calls, so someone who may be considered a harm to themselves or others,” McIntosh said.
The team consists of a mental health clinician and a peer who is usually from the city of Hartford, who knows their way around the neighborhoods.
“Having what we call a peer responder, who knows the city well and knows the community well, in some cases may have walked in the shoes of some of the folks that they’re responding to, and supporting, is an important part of building a successful program,” Bronin said.
This program has been so successful that they are trying to build the team, add more people and make it broader throughout the city.