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Building an Indispensable Bridge

By Rev. Donald L. Perryman, Ph.D.
The Truth Contributor

If you always do what you always did, you will always get what you always got. 

                -  Moms (Jackie) Mabley  


Rev. Donald L. Perryman, D.Min.

The legacy of slavery and other systemic tools of racial control continues to impact the mental health of Black people. The internal problems resulting from social oppression causes many to live in a perpetual state of crisis. Outcomes are rarely positive as we encounter law enforcement while trying to live crisis to crisis.

To understand, we only have to look to several recent officer-involved shootings of African Americans attempting to navigate the treacherous road through crisis, struggle, and recovery. Survival on this difficult journey is nearly impossible without adequate social support and leading-edge crisis intervention.

 In my last column, I discussed Lucas County’s Crisis Intervention program (CIT). Law enforcement officers are trained to effectively manage interactions with people they encounter who might have mental health, substance abuse, or developmental issues.

The program has flourished in Lucas County, and everyone—including the public and law enforcement officers—is better for it.

At the end of the column, I also said that it’s essential to keep pushing and fighting for a better and more equitable crisis-response system.

In that effort, it is vital to keep our eyes on what is happening in other communities.

Several cities are implementing “co-responder” programs, where police, emergency response, and mental health professionals respond together.  These cities include Chicago and San Antonio.

Others take it a step further and are pilot-testing responses in which there might be no police response at all, based on the situation.

Denver has established the STAR program.  STAR stands for Support Team Assistance Response and consists of a medic and a clinician available to respond to calls involving mental health, substance abuse, or developmental issues.  The doctor and clinician provide a third option for dispatchers when directing the response to situations like this.

The Denver program is a pilot, but in the first six months STAR was able to respond to 748 calls, none of which required police assistance and in which no arrests were made.  The analysis shows that when the program is fully expanded, it could reduce police calls by 3%.

Denver’s STAR program is modeled after a similar program in Eugene, Oregon.  Also, New York City is piloting the program in specific neighborhoods.

Notably, the programs (Oregon’s CAHOOTS program specifically), require responders to have 500 hours de-escalation training rather than the 40 hours required for Lucas County’s CIT program.

These models train officers to both control a situation and protect property. The models also help crisis responders emphasize the dignity of the whole person and prevent a response from police “with an axe to grind and ‘protect’ religious cathedrals,” as a local pastor explained.

For sure, a nonpolice unit working alongside police will help see/respond to things from more than a single perspective.  

Finally, it is the element of collaboration that genuinely stands out in all of the models. In a large sense, the programs and systems we develop are only as good as the community that stands behind them.  When a unified community addresses these problems—from law enforcement and first responders to clinicians to grassroots community leaders—we have the opportunity for real progress.

The STAR and CAHOOTS programs are examples of this kind of collaboration.  So is the CIT program I wrote about last week and the new crisis services system, also here in Lucas County, that I wrote about the week before.

My point is not to advocate for a specific program. However, I urge our community to build on the good things we are doing now and continue to stand united for progress and mental health innovation.

It is a call that we can no longer disregard.

Contact Rev. Donald Perryman, D.Min, at drdlperryman@centerofhopebaptist.org


Copyright © 2019 by [The Sojourner's Truth]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 02/19/21 14:29:25 -0500.



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