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Mental health workers would respond to police calls under Grand Rapids proposal

By Brad Devereaux, mlive.com

GRAND RAPIDS, MI — The city of Grand Rapids has announced a proposal to send health professionals along with police to certain public safety calls, according to a news release from the city of Grand Rapids.

City Manager Mark Washington Washington, along with Police Chief Eric Payne and Fire Chief John Lehman, intends to leverage a combination of non-sworn behavioral and mental health professionals within the organization, and partnerships with behavioral and mental health professionals from other governments, authorities and nonprofit organizations, as part of an effort to improve public safety outcomes, the July 20 news release states.

Instead of the Grand Rapids Police Department sending only a police officer to certain calls, Payne will consider whether an expanded co-response model with a mental health or behavioral health professional could work, according to the news release.

These calls could include:

Disorderly intoxication

Drug overdose

Intoxicated person

Mental health crisis

Suicide crisis

Mental health transport

Disorderly youth/juvenile


Neighborhood dispute

“We all understand that the traditional model of response – one that relies on police, fire and EMS – is not the most effective way to serve people suffering from a mental health crisis,” Washington said in the news release. “As we continue to re-evaluate our strategies, especially around policing, partnerships like this are another important step in our ongoing efforts.”

Washington said in the statement he hopes to pilot the expanded partnerships by focusing on responses to people experiencing homelessness. The goal is to integrate police, fire and mental health professionals to more effectively connect people with the services and support that can lead to transitional and/or permanent supportive housing, the news release states.

“I think we all acknowledge the need to divert these responses away from emergency departments, inpatient facilities and jails and into timely mental health and substance use treatment,” Washington said.

Details of the partnerships are still in development, the city said, and more formal plans may be announced with Payne’s update on the police department’s strategic plan, set for Aug. 11 during the Grand Rapids City Commission’s Committee of the Whole meeting.

This article may have been edited for content

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