MNPD's Partners in Care program begins; mental health clinicians respond to calls with officers

metro police car daytime.jpg
Posted at 10:09 AM, Jun 28, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-28 23:45:07-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Policing is going to look a bit different in parts of Nashville as officers in the North and Hermitage precincts partner with clinicians from the mental health cooperative.

On Monday, Metro Nashville launched its Nashville Partners in Care program, which places mental health clinicians in police cars with MNPD officers. The pilot project was created in response to recommendations from Mayor John Cooper’s Behavioral Health and Wellness Advisory Council and the Policing Policy Commission.

MNPD Police Chief John Drake and Mayor John Cooper held a press conference that afternoon.

"We’re 100% committed to this program, pilot program and we’re going to expand it throughout the entire police department," said Chief John Drake. "We value the partnership with Mental Health Coop and we’re going to do everything within our power to bring this to the entire city because I feel that it’s what we need, it’s what our city needs and it’s what the agencies involve need."

MNPD announced details of its first-ever Co-Response Crisis Intervention Program earlier this month, saying officers had begun 40 hours of crisis training prior to the program's launch. Metro said for this pilot, 16 police officers have been trained with clinicians in being part of Crisis Intervention Teams.

For the next year, the pilot program will pair clinicians with officers in patrol cars on the day and evening shifts.

"The whole goal of the program is to decrease those levels of crisis and getting people help before it gets to that level," said Michael Randolph.

Randolph is the program manager of the Crisis Intervention Team.

"At that point the CIT unit will go, respond to that call, the officer will make sure that it’s safe and if that person wants to talk to a clinician, the clinician will then do an assessment, and kind of get that person the best help they can."

Randolph says this program is about saving lives.

"I think a big problem in mental health, in general, is people not calling for help or people not wanting to talk about help," Randolph said, People don’t want to call the police on their loved one who would want to do that. I think if we are building things from the ground up to better treat people and to destigmatize mental health treatment and especially decriminalized mental health treatment people will feel more comfortable."

MNPD and Mental Health Cooperative always had a partnership. But in times before, the officers would arrive at the scene first and if it was mental health-related, they would then call for the mobile crisis team to arrive. The new model eliminates a time gap, allowing officers will stabilize the scene while clinicians evaluate anyone in need of help.

"By responding at the same time and cutting down all the middlemen and cut through the red tape in getting people help as they are in that crisis," said Randolph.

The teams started as early as 6:30 Monday morning. By early afternoon Monday, the teams had already responded to four calls which resulted in four people receiving help.

"...Four have gotten medical help and not put into the criminal justice system and that's really what we wanted - to be able to mitigate the use of force and to be able to help people," said Chief Drake.

“We in the police department are excited to partner with the Mental Health Co-Op to launch this initiative at the end of the month,” Chief Drake said. “I believe the co-response model is right for Nashville and I am firmly committed to this program and seeing it succeed.”

Metro police said the program has four goals:

  1. Improve access to care for those experiencing a behavioral health crisis.
  2. Divert those in crisis from the criminal justice system to the health care system.
  3. Improve safety for those in crisis, clinicians, and police officers.
  4. Improve coordination and communication across systems and service providers.

Police plan to expand the co-response model across other precincts after the program is evaluated.