By Abrahm Hurt
INDIANAPOLIS — Indianapolis Metro Police Department is launching a pilot program, designed to help assess the mental or behavioral state of individuals in a crisis, that could serve as a model for other communities across the state.
A team, including a police officer, a paramedic and a clinician, will work to de-escalate situations where law enforcement has been called. The goal is to connect distressed individuals with the right resources rather than place them in jail.
Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett announces the launch of the MCAT pilot program. Photo by Eddie Drews, TheStatehouseFile.com
The team will start Tuesday in the city’s east district.
“The launch of this team today marks a critical step forward on our path to better address the root causes of crime,” Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett said at a news conference Monday. “Be it by improving our response to situations or by proactively working in the community to build relationships with those who call this side of town home.”
With on-scene intervention, the Mobile Crisis Assistance Team will work to resolve the problem on-scene. If behavioral health care is needed, they will take the individual to an emergency room or crisis assessment center. The team might take a homeless person in need of mental health or detox to the Reuben Engagement Center, where they can receive treatments.
When law enforcement action is needed, the individual will be taken to the hospital for psychiatric evaluation and treatment, followed by more mental health care intervention at Arrestee Processing Center.
“I think in a lot of ways Indianapolis is ahead of the curve,” Marianne Halbert, criminal justice director at the National Alliance on Mental Illness, said. “I think part of that is due to the fact that it is a large community and sometimes they have additional resources or staff.”
Halbert said the new pilot program could be an example for other cities looking to create their own program.
“There is sometimes concern expressed by people in small communities that what Indianapolis does may not be adaptable there,” she said. “We are hoping that once we see how this pilot rolls out to see if there are ways to make a similar model available to people in smaller communities.”
Earlier this year Senate Enrolled Act 231 opened the door for crisis intervention team training across the state. Through the training program, officers are taught how to assist individuals with a mental illness or addiction. The officer can then connect individuals with a mental health or addiction professional for further treatment.
Under the new law, basic crisis intervention team training provided at the academy level for new officers could be increased. A team could be established to travel the state and offer training and education to communities.
Since that type of team does not exist in Indiana, Halbert currently travels around the state solo to provide training to law enforcement and other community entities.
Access to more training hinges on whether the Indiana Commission to Combat Drug Abuse approves funding for the new team.
Halbert said the commission has been open to discussing and interested in funding for the team.
“We’re certainly hopeful that they will because that’s the best way to help prepare law enforcement to appropriately respond when people are experiencing a crisis,” Halbert said.
The commission is expected to announce the decision at its next meeting on Aug. 24.
Abrahm Hurt is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.