Austin, Texas – – Austin 911 is offering a new option to callers and Austin may be the first in the country to offer this new option. As of this month, the operators are testing a fourth question option, “Mental Health Services”, for the 911 answer script.
The new greeting is “Austin 9-1-1, do you need police, fire, ambulance, or mental health services?”
A 911 caller indicating that they need mental health services will initiate an immediate handover to an on-site mental health clinician or, if a clinician is unavailable, an immediate dispatch of a CIT officer (Crisis Intervention Team).
The option is currently in a trial period and a full launch of the call center triage program is planned for the end of this year. The mental health option is only possible because of Austin’s transformation budget, which has been used to reallocate police funds, according to 911. This emerges from a press release from council member Greg Casar.
“Austin is a leader in improving public safety and protecting civil rights,” said Greg Casar, a member of Austin City Council. “For too long we have expected our law enforcement agencies to do the job of a social worker or a psychologist. We know our residents are safer when a behavioral crisis comes with health care. We can establish mental health options at 911 because of our remodeling Police Budgets in Response to Black Lives Matter. “
Councilor Casar said he had been working with his colleagues on a mental health response system since Austin police killed the unarmed and troubled David Joseph in 2016.
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“Austin 911, do you need police, fire, ambulance, or mental health services?”
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A 2018 city survey found that of the 15 largest cities in America, “the APD has the highest per capita rate of fatal police shootings involving people believed to be in a mental health crisis “.
In 2019, the Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute (MMHPI) conducted a study and developed recommendations for mental health first aid calls. The 911 Mental Health option is in line with the Institute’s Recommendation for Integrated Mental Health Dispatch.
For more information about the 911 Mental Health Option, see this memo: