Unarmed First Responders in Other Cities: Selected Characteristics

The following cities are often cited as examples of unarmed response programs.  The included characteristics emphasize those where consensus is lacking in Ann Arbor.

Austin, Texas -- Mobile Crisis Outreach Team (MCOT)

Website

Operated by Integral Care, a community based mental center (see Albany Law School report cited below)

Hours of Operation (source):  8 am - 10 pm, Monday - Friday

                                                        10 am - 8 pm, Saturday, Sunday, and Holidays

MCOT responds to requests from law enforcement agencies to assist in responding to 911 calls as well as responds to requests from other sources.

Integral Care also operates a 24/7 Crisis Helpline (512-472-4357) for telephone and Telehealth services (source)

Police do not answer non-emergency calls but refer them to 311 (source)

"What started as Police non-emergency line for the City of Austin has become a robust Citywide Information Center where ambassadors are available to answer residents’ concerns 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and 365 days a year." (source)

Does not appear to be a # to handle crises involving people living with a mental health condition

The predecessor to MCOT was the Extended Mobile Crisis Outreach Team (EMCOT).  The Albany Law School report cited below discusses EMCOT, that is, not MCOT.  EMCOT appears to have ended because of a funding cut. (source)

Denver, Colorado -- Support Team Assisted Response (STAR) Program

Website

Hours of Operation (based on website): Appear to be working towards 6 am - 10 pm seven days per week but currently less than this.

Following material is from the website:

What is Support Team Assisted Response (STAR)?

Support Team Assisted Response (STAR) pairs a Mental Health Center of Denver (MHCD) mental health clinician with a Denver Health paramedic or emergency medical technician (EMT) to respond to low risk, low acuity calls coming into the 9-1-1 system. The team can provide medical assessment/triage, crisis intervention, de escalation, transportation and resource connection for community members in need.

To what types of calls does STAR respond?

STAR responds to low risk calls where individuals are not in imminent risk. STAR deals with low level behavioral health crises and issues that arise from public health needs and poverty. Some examples are, trespass calls, welfare checks, intoxicated parties and mental health crisis.

How is STAR dispatched?

STAR is dispatched through Denver 9-1-1 Communications. All of the civilian call takers and dispatchers at the communications center are trained to triage STAR calls and send the most appropriate available response. The calls are screened for safety and appropriateness.

Eugene, Oregon -- Crisis Assistance Helping Out On the Streets (CAHOOTS)

 

Websitea case study is also a useful source

Operated by White Bird Clinic, a nonprofit, under contract to the Police Department and the County

Receives dispatches from the 911 dispatch center as well as from a 10-digit number and other referrals

Operates 24/7

Olympia, Washington -- Crisis Response Unit (CRU)

Website; a case study is also a useful source

"... administered by Recovery Innovations International, which is a mental health services provider from the neighboring county with '14 crisis programs in five states,' although it has no other alternative first response programs.  The Administrative Services Division of the Olympia Police Department handles the contract, because that division does not include sworn officers." (Albany Law School Report cited below)

Hours of Operation (from website): 7 am - 8:40 pm, Monday - Thursday

                                                                    10 am - 8:40 pm, Friday - Sunday

"Rather than dispatching CRU directly based on specific criteria, TCOMM 911 shares all potentially eligible calls coming through 911 or Olympia’s non-emergency line over the shared police frequency. CRU teams hear all the calls on the police frequency while they are working and may decide to respond, or officers may refer calls to CRU if they determine a health-centered response is more appropriate and the apparent threat for first responders is minimal. Callers have also increasingly requested CRU as the unit has established itself in the community." (source)

CRU can be contacted by calling 360-704-2740, that is, it responds to direct requests from citizens as well as to requests from law enforcement agencies and service providers.

San Francisco, California -- Street Crisis Response Team (SCRT) Pilot

Website

The following information is from the website:

The Response Teams - A community paramedic, a clinician and a peer specialist

A community paramedic assesses for medical and mental health emergencies 

A clinician attends to the client’s mental health needs 

A peer specialist with lived experience helps make the connection with clients to gain trust and move them to be open to care 

After the response call, we follow up and connect clients to services, such as treatment and housing. 

Availability - Neighborhood based care and support 

We operate 24/7 with citywide reach. 

Our five teams operate by neighborhood, getting to know the unique community characteristics and individuals. ​​​​​​​

A sixth team provides overnight coverage and fills in any gaps in needs.​​​​​​​

Call 9-1-1 if you see someone in crisis and describe what you are seeing to our trained dispatchers.

The following information is from the "December 2021 Update" whose link is on the website

  • SCRT aims to respond to 100% of dispatched 800-Bs once fully launched.  800-Bs are a type of call code from 911 emergency communications center which indicate an individual in behavioral health distress with no weapon involved.  In 2019 SF 911 received over 10,000 of these calls.

  • 813 crisis calls handled by SCRT in December 2021

  • 61% of 800-B calls received a SCRT response in December 2021

  • Average response time was 16 minutes in December 2021

  • 911 Dispatch was the source of 87% of referrals to SCRT from its inception on November 30, 2020 through December 2021

  • 59% of crises resolved at the scene and the client remained safely in the community from the inception of SCRT on November 30, 2020 through December 2021

Overviews of Unarmed First Responder Programs

A Public Health Approach To Public Safety: Examples from the Field, Video, Region V Public Health Training Center with Support Pvovided by the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services, August 2021.

Alternatives to Police as First Responders: Crisis Response Programs, Albany Law School, November 16, 2020.

Crisis Response Services for People with Mental Illnesses or Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities: A Review of the Literature on Police-based and Other First Response Models, Vera Institute of Justice, October 2019.