GR considers expanding mental health partnerships with police

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The city of Grand Rapids is considering a plan to expand partnerships between mental health professionals and first responders in an effort to improve public safety outcomes.

On Monday, City Manager Mark Washington announced that he, Grand Rapids Police Chief Eric Payne and Fire Chief John Lehman want to expand a co-response model that would send both first responders and mental health or behavioral health professionals to certain calls.

“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 a statement. “As we continue to re-evaluate our strategies, especially around policing, partnerships like this are another important step in our ongoing efforts.”

Under the expansion, mental health professionals would be sent to calls that include:

  • Disorderly intoxication
  • Drug overdose
  • Intoxicated person
  • Mental health crisis
  • Suicide crisis
  • Mental health transport
  • Disorderly youth/juvenile
  • Panhandling
  • Neighborhood dispute

Washington says he wants to focus on people experiencing homelessness to help them find transitional or supportive housing.

“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 expanded partnership are still being developed. The city says it hopes to have more information during Payne’s update on the police department’s strategic plan on Aug. 11.