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Licensed clinicians to respond with CMPD on calls involving people in crisis

Charlotte-Mecklenburg police
Charlotte-Mecklenburg police(wbtv)
Published: Jan. 14, 2019 at 6:51 PM EST
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CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police (CMPD) will have some help when they respond to calls involving people with mental illness or substance abuse.

Monday evening, Charlotte City Council is expected to approve a contract with a mental health entity that will provide licensed clinicians who will respond with officers to calls where someone is in crisis.

Police say it’s not uncommon for crisis intervention team (CIT) officers to respond multiple times to the same person.

And being that mental illness is unpredictable, there have been times when police say they’ve had to shoot to protect themselves from that individual.

“What breaks my heart is we had an incident where someone was shot and a week prior we’d been out there with a CIT officer getting them to take their meds. This time they decided to show violence and we didn’t have the best outcome,” said Chief Kerr Putney.

According to CMPD, there were 799 CIT calls in 2018.

Police say the licensed mental health professionals will be with officers at emergency scenes.

“We want clinicians on the ground having a conversation trying to help us de-escalate,” said Chief Putney. “I can’t guarantee a thing but I can tell you this: I feel a lot better once we get there we’re doing everything we can right now to prevent negative outcomes.”

"One of the things that we've been looking for when we're talking about dealing with people in distress and suffering from a mental episode is how can you get them the help that they need" said Robert Dawkins.

Dawkins, who is with Safe Coalition, says in most officer-involved shootings, the person police shot had a mental illness and couldn’t comprehend what was happening.

“So if we can work on that we’ll drastically cut down I believe on the amount police shootings and bad interactions in the community,” said Dawkins. “Can I document and say that it will? No, but I think and I thank the police department for at least looking into this as an option and we’ll see what becomes of it. I think that it will make a difference though.”

“We know by calls for service who we have out there who are struggling with crisis with mental and behavior. We’re going to proactively check on them,” said Chief Putney.

Police say under this new plan, mental health experts will have follow-up meetings.

“Providing referral and educational information, supportive information that people might not be aware of so that we can prevent some of the negative outcomes," Chief Putney said.

The Community Policing Crisis Response will have six clinicians.

According city council documents, “the cost of the initial term of one year is not to exceed $669,235.”

If council gives the City Manager the authority the renew the contract for four more one year terms – the total five year contract would be $3,505,621.00.

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