by William Skink
I just watched a live stream of Missoula Police Chief, Jaeson White, doing a press conference on the police’s use of lethal force on Jesse James Kale Brown last Saturday. The part that caught my attention was White’s acknowledgement that the new Mobile Crisis Team, had it been active, would NOT have been the first to respond to an incident like this because it was an “active assault”.
So, what WOULD be a situation in which the Mobile Crisis Team responds BEFORE police?
Before continuing, I will again remind readers that my former position as the Outreach Coordinator for the Poverello Center put me in a first-responder type role because of my program’s HOT line, which allowed business owners and community members to call me first BEFORE calling 911, was often used in a manner that is now being duplicated, but, I’m afraid, poorly structured.
One of the things I learned during the years I did this work was the reluctance people in the community have for calling 911. This is important to note, and one reason I tried to get the call BEFORE the 911 dispatch center did. I did this by emphasizing my role as responding to NUISANCE issues, not SAFETY issues. I would constantly encourage people I talked to to call 911 if they ever felt unsafe.
What this general reluctance means is that usually, by the time someone finally calls 911, a mental health crisis has already escalated to the point of an emergency, and that will almost ALWAYS mean police responding FIRST to secure the scene.
Will the mobile crisis team have a different phone number people can call for a response? If the answer is no, why the hell not?
This is a difficult subject that might be better served through a recorded conversation, perhaps in a podcast format. I’m hoping it will be just a matter of a few more weeks until you, dear readers, can choose the option of listening to my melodious voice.