New mental health crisis team in Anchorage for some crisis police calls - Must Read Alaska
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Sunday, December 6, 2020
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New mental health crisis team in Anchorage for some crisis police calls

By SCOTT LEVESQUE

Anchorage will have an unarmed crisis team that will handle mental health crisis calls within the Municipality during the fiscal year that begins Jan. 1,

On Tuesday, the Anchorage Assembly passed the 2021 budget, which included $1.5 million for a new Mental Health First Responders team. The Mobile Crisis Team will consist of specialized first responders tasked with aiding the Anchorage Police Department by responding to a portion of the 7,300 mental health crisis calls received each year.

The purpose of the group will be to de-escalate crises, stabilize individuals in crisis, and refer or connect them to services. The team will do triage and assessment in a one-hour response time.

According to a Twitter thread from Assembly member Dunbar, the team will consist of mental health specialists, paramedics, case managers, and peer staff. 

Many Anchorage residents first learned of a potential mental health responder team in late October when Assembly member Chris Constant responded to a Twitter message highlighting San Francisco’s new unarmed mental health teams. He revealed that such a team was in the works for Anchorage.

The City of Denver also recently deployed a similar team in June called Support Team Assisted Response, which has responded to over 600 calls, mostly dealing with homelessness, mental illness, and substance abuse – no criminal activity. The STAR programs sends mental health workers and paramedics, rather than police, to respond to calls that don’t involve crimes, with about 10 percent of calls coming from Denver Police Department or Emergency Medical Services.

Anchorage already has community safety patrol and patrol van dispatched by the Anchorage Fire Department Call Center to help people who that appear to be incapacitated by alcohol or drugs. When not on a dispatch call from the fire department, the van patrols the Anchorage Downtown and Midtown areas in search of persons that may be in need of assistance.  People can be taken into protective custody, evaluated, and transported to a hospital for further care.

Those skeptical about the new crisis team initiative focus their concerns on a lack of clarity on policies and procedures, such as:

  • Which emergency calls fall under the MCT scope?
  • Who decides if the MCT or police will respond?
  • What happens if the situation escalates?
  • Will the MCT have an assigned officer to accompany them?
  • How will the team handle multiple calls concurrently?

The team will work out of the Anchorage Fire Department, and revenue from the alcohol tax, approved in April, is funding the new initiative.

The budget also awarded $93,500 to the library from the alcohol tax, with the justification that literacy will keep people out of prison.

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Suzanne Downing had careers in business and journalism before serving as the Director of Faith and Community-based Initiatives for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and returning to Alaska to serve as speechwriter for Gov. Sean Parnell. Born on the Oregon coast, she moved to Alaska in 1969.

Latest comments

  • Wait for it when the first unarmed person is killed they will try and come for our guns. Come and try we will see who wins.

  • I like the whole literacy thing, except with schools closed and kids not learning…
    So let’s see about the mental health first responders. A crisis situation with escalating tensions, during a lockdown, causing many of these escalating tensions, where many of these people have weapons and our first responders are unarmed, without a police presence. What could possibly go wrong?

  • Why do my post disappear????

  • I shall sleep so well tonight knowing the mental health squad is on the job. God save us from idiots!

    • I sleep well knowing my house is protected by Beretta.

  • The Assembly will have to put at least $8 or 9 million into mental health response after January 20th if Trump gets sworn in for his second term. Anyone who thinks that a delay in the COVID vaccine is still the root cause of ongoing depression and ideations of despair, is not paying attention to reality. Trump Derangement Disorder
    (TDD), which will soon get a unique designation from the American Psychiatric Institute (API), will eclipse all other known forms of mass hysteria. While I don’t necessarily encourage TDD to manifest itself into the public discourse, it han’t been all bad for my business. 2nd, 3rd, and 4th quarters have been phenomenal.

    • Dr. Dan,
      can I sign-up my wife’s family for group therapy? I’m the only one still working and I’d like a break on costs.

      • Nooooooooo. People on welfare count on you.

        • Can the entire Assembly go into group therapy?

  • The wait for them to take a hostage team has shown up?

    .

    What could possibly go wrong?

  • Scott, that last paragraph above, the one about funding Libraries is reason enough to have a drink, perhaps many.

  • Laughable!
    The Socialist Democrats!
    heh heh hahaha!
    cough!
    heh heh hahahaha!

    First they take the jobs away now doing damage control using the same dumb dimwitted dems mental health employees. The alcohol and drug use will still go up, recovered addicts and depressed citizens will relapse under stress, and suicides will still go up even though all the money increase. Their mental health case teams couldn’t reverse the crises when there were more jobs and more peace using the same non godly intervention tactics.

    The literacy!? heh hehehe hahahaha First they got to get citizens to pick up a book and read it! Even before 2020 people went into the library and used more its “free” computer internet service and “free” wifi over reading books.

    This is very bad and discouraging democrat response. But it’s good I know how to laugh, but there is too many people who can’t laugh in times like these days. That’s what they need — a little laughter, a litter non compliance, and a legal defense team.

    • Weren’t you being all churchy the other day on us? This doesn’t sound like a very Christian response.

  • Foolish Democrats trying to play God like they can do God’s job better than the Great I am. What these people need is the Freedom from Christ and their Jobs to do something meaningful with pay that pays for their whole life without collecting any government assistance, but These anchorage leaders and mental health intervention employees need more God than the people in crisis. They first must learn to take care of themselves before they know how to aid another life facing a crisis.

  • Another question I have is what is the City’s liability when the Crisis Team members get beat up, stabbed, or shot? It seems if someone has to call 911 on these types of individuals a crime or potential crime has already been committed. Oh well, worth a try. I would really like to observe some of these calls.

  • >The budget also awarded $93,500 to the library from the alcohol tax, with the justification that literacy will keep people out of prison<
    .
    No doubt that'll provide nice stipends for the "Drag Queen Story-time" crowd.

    • Literacy ….. isn’t that what my property taxes are supposed to be paying for already. Schools,That’s where they taught us to read. Or have all the books been banned in school?

  • Did the Assembly provide any evidence to support their assertion of a direct causal link between illiteracy and prison? Any evidence that, even accepting arguendo that such a direct causal link exists, that persons at risk of going to prison voluntarily patronize libraries when available? Did they explain how merely having a book available to an illiterate can magically teach that person how to read? No? So they just made up an excuse to spend public money based on a whim as usual.

    They all need to be replaced by intelligent people who understand that the Assembly’s power is strictly limited and constrained.

  • “Literacy will keep people out of prison”. Really? I doubt there isn’t a criminal out there that can’t read. More nonsense from the local communist leadership.

  • The assembly has launched into a trajectory for the city that will lead to ever growing government with net zero return for all that money. The next election is vital to put a conservative mayor in office to get the city spending under control and eliminate some of these net zero programs and net negative programs that have been in place for over a decade, like that useless SAP program.

    • Voting is useless until mail-in if gone.
      Two week to count gives a lot of time to siphon as many “ballots “ 😉you need

  • Who in their right mind would want to be on this unarmed team?

    Let’s see if I have this correct. 911 call comes in, someone is acting unstable, dangerous. So the city sends out an unarmed person without support to become the target?

    Pretty much across the nation, the response from the mental health professionals is “no thanks. Not without police (armed police) there with me.”

    Trying to talk the mental health crisis people down from the edge, trying to handled them with kid gloves is good in principle, but as public policy? Not going to work.

  • The first mental health crisis this team needs to respond to is the Anchorage assembly itself… they (all but the two conservative members) have obviously lost all touch with reality and common sense and are in obvious need of some sort of intervention…

  • Money aside, this is an excellent idea. Our high paid police are over-tasked with law enforcement duties. Taking non-law enforcement calls off their list of duties will give them the opportunity to more fully address the calls for service and investigations where they are most needed.

  • We wouldn’t need so much crisis intervention if we had a better program for the mental health. API is nothing more than a catch and release program . And the local jail picks up the slack from there. Many of our poisoners are in jail only because we do no have any mental health facilities. Wake up Alaska!
    Furthermore, this is not an Anchorage problem, but a state of Alaska problem. Anchorage just happens to be the dumping ground for most of Alaska’s society’s problems.

    Food for thought: How many people come to Alaska or get sent with a one way ticket just because we have better health care available?

  • I hope they got good Insurance.

  • Yep I going straight to the library and check out a book on stupidity of the assembly.

  • I think the “mental health” team should be working on the assembly, not for them.
    The socialist modus operandi and they are ‘specialists’.
    What, exactly constitutes a ‘mental health crisis’ where a responding officer arrives unarmed? Who determines each call as ‘crisis’ or not? Weapons should not be used in any case unless absolutely necessary for the safety of the officers and citizens. Weapons are a last resort for the officers. What happens when an emergency call asks for police assistance, needed for a “mental health” issue, the officer arrives, disarmed, and discovers the call is more dangerous than expected? The officer is disarmed. The offender is armed. The offender attacks. The officer is defenseless. Which one is more likely to overpower the other? The object of the cry for help in the first place would be violence or the threat of violence, requiring not a discussion from unarmed ‘health crisis’ talkers, but responders with the means to subdue the offender, if necessary, providing assistance to the victim that would not be offered by the ‘crisis’ talker. Armed police officers talk too. From there, have an ‘unarmed expert’ on call for immediate “verbal action” to solve the problem, if possible. Otherwise, the officers are at a disadvantage that could cost them and the victims their lives.
    Too bad there isn’t a ‘vaccine’ for stupidity.

  • Just another governmental middle man…Why is the City collecting alcohol taxes just to turn around and give it to these mental health first responders?

    I propose the alcohol industry just give free booze to the responders..

    They are going to need it.

  • Wow. Guess I am not on the same page as most above. There is certainly plenty of snarkiness 😆😅.

    First of all – this program does not replace the police or fire department response – they assist. Second, it is the alcohol tax that is funding it. Given mental illness is often linked with addiction, and both are primary causes of the massive homelessness problem Anchorage is dealing with, it certainly seems this is a far more proactive approach than simply buying up hotels and apartment buildings to house the growing numbers, allowing them to continue in their dysfunction. I for one would like to see this at least given a chance.

    • Elizabeth,
      I am fairly sure the police department has a negotiator or two as members of the department. Democrat political negotiators being added is like having communist overseers of the police department. Firemen are already disarmed. That is why most fire responses are accompanied by armed police units. Just in case.
      For anything to work with the Anchorage homeless/addict/mental health problem, the basic principles of treatment need to be re-examined. What I see in Anchorage right now is ‘enabling’ the problems. Anchorage is not “dealing” with anything but political ambition and a communist agenda from it’s “leaders”, and spending the alcohol tax for an unintended purpose. I believe in calling it like I see it.
      If you want ‘chances’ of something working, give the police the chance to do their jobs without political interference.

    • Alcohol tax is funding this project “given mental illness is often linked with addiction”.
      Anyone glad the additional alcohol tax passed after being voted down soundly in previous elections – (thank you mail in voting).
      Wondering: What does the Pot tax fund? Isn’t that yet another addiction? Anyone else notice a pot store on just about every corner – no problem (ps: restaurants don’t pose mental health issues).

      The more the merrier as long as it brings in revenue for the government it’s all fine and dandy.
      Everyone needs a way to escape these Happy days!

      Also: What about the extra 10 cents tax per gallon of gas? Still there?

  • I feel really bad for the medics.

  • Having worked for years as a street paramedic and decades as an ER nurse, here’s how this will likely play out. Medics/Social Worker show up for psych case, if there is ANY danger at all, the police will still be there, which is exactly how the system works now. If they are called to assist in anything dangerous, this service will not “assist” until cleared for safety by police. This is nothing more than an ad campaign for “defund the police” that will likely have minimal to no effect on how the police operate with the most dangerously mentally ill population. As you can see from the article, the service in Denver has also yet to respond to any crime in progress cases, because they won’t. The entire concept of a social worker changing an outcome in those gun/knife yielding cases just won’t work. I’ve thousands of psych cases (without patient having guns) both as a medic and ER nurse. There is no talking these patients down, usually it ends with forceful detainment on the gurney followed by benzodiazepines and anti-psychotics. In EMS, the mantra of “scene safety” is the beginning of absolutely every training scenario, all the time, every time. Medics don’t forget that regardless of some silly “defund the police” campaign.

  • I was the Program Director for a very similar setup in the valley. I went out alone when requested by the Troopers/police or Matsu ER. It made a huge difference and the non profit agency I worked for did not like the direction that I was trying to lead the program. These type of programs are needed and free up the police to do their jobs. This also leads to case management for these individuals and assistance in many areas. The behind the desk approach doesn’t work. It is “ boots on the ground” approach that is required. I worked all hours and never once was assaulted, or felt I was in harms way. The police were there any time I needed them and very supportive of my efforts. I wish I had known about this program because I would love to be a part of it. I am a mental Health Registered Nurse.

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