Tulsa CRT Struggles To Keep Up With Mental Health Calls

Thursday, March 31st 2022, 10:43 pm


Tulsa's Crisis Response Team said mental health crisis calls are on the rise and they can barely keep up. The Crisis Response Team can only provide mental health help Monday through Friday during normal business hours, but the need is much greater.

The Tulsa Crisis Response Team includes a police officer, a Tulsa fire paramedic, and a licensed clinician. "This type of response is unique in nature and something we're seeing more and more," said Justin Lemery, TFD Director of Emergency Medical Services.

The team said it's about having the right people, at the right time, with the right kind of care. "Police officer's usually the first one knocking on the door or making the approach," said Capt. Shellie Seibert, TPD.

The officer could take someone into protective custody for a mental health evaluation.

"We get disturbances. We get public nuisance complaints or people out yelling or screaming on the street. Sometimes there's been a crime that's occurred," said Capt. Seibert.

TPD also has 190 officers trained in Crisis Intervention. "We have a COPES clinician in our 911 center. So right away they're scanning calls and looking at ways to divert from law enforcement to the COPES clinicians," said Capt. Seibert.

They get about 1,000 mental health calls a month.

"We do a lot of training in de-escalation, crisis intervention, assessment, rapidly engaging with individuals and then connecting them to ongoing care," said Amanda Bradley, Associate Chief Program Officer for COPES at Family & Children's Services.

Family and Children's Services said calls in February were up 21-percent from a year ago. "There were loss of jobs, new employment, childcare issues, stress, depression, anxiety, just the unknown," said Bradley.

The team said it's rewarding when they can keep people out of jail, connect them with family, and get them the treatment they need.

CRT said 988 is a national mental health crisis line developed so people don't have to call 911 that is set to be implemented in July of this year.


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