DETROIT (WXYZ) — “These aren’t just anomalies, they happen all the time, Kia Miller, Porter Burkes,” said Alexandria Hughes, a community mental health advocate.
Alexandria Hughes is a mental health activist in Detroit who has spent the year organizing rallies calling for a third-party mental health response team in Detroit.
She told me her passion is fueled by close friends who struggle with mental health and feels more excited when the police respond to help.
“Not having those resources or knowing where to go or feeling that the resource was the people who hurt my friend was the resource that hurt my friend,” Hughes said.
“It’s scary, seeing that every day is scary.”
Dr. Gerald Shiner, a psychiatrist at Sinai Grace Hospital and professor at Wayne State University, supports Hughes.
“Mental health care is in crisis in our city and across the country,” said Dr. Gerald Scheiner, a psychiatrist at Sinai Grace Hospital, a professor at Wayne State University.
Dr. Scheiner responds to mental health patients at the hospital and says that when these patients are going through their worst moments – often the presence of weapons or intimidating staff makes the situation worse.
“Patients with this kind of difficulty often get scared and think that everyone out there is doing them harm,” Dr. Scheiner revealed.
“Mental health professionals are the best suited staff to respond to a mental health crisis, but mental health professionals are not available,” said Dr. Scheiner.
With no mental health response team in place, Detroit police have been responding to a spike in mental health calls.
According to DPD data, Detroit police officers have responded to nearly 4,300 mental health calls this year, and more than 1,000 from violent offenders.
Furthermore, the department responds to an average of 64 mental health activities per day, more than three times as many as in 2020.
“That’s a lot. I feel like this is additional research to show we just need more resources for mental health,” Sarah Grimmer of 7 Action News told Dr. Shiner.
“64 calls a day is more than the emergency services can handle in many cases,” said Dr. Shiner.
Now, change may finally come.
DPD partners with Detroit Wayne’s Integrated Crisis Intervention Team to train in crisis intervention, but now they’re also listening to activists like Hughes and working with Detroit Councilwoman Gabriela Santiago Romero to create a non-conditional response program to address a nonviolent mindset. health calls.
“The reality is that our police have seen an increase in mental health calls since the beginning of the pandemic. 50-60% of these calls are nonviolent, which means our police are responding to a call that a mental health provider can handle,” said Gabriela Santiago Romero, a Detroit City Council member.
Santiago Romero says the task force would be similar to Denver’s Support Team Assistance Response (STAR) program or Portland’s Street Response program.
STAR deploys emergency medical technicians and behavioral health clinicians to engage people with mental health distress, poverty, and more.
“I think a direct mental health response presents someone for the intervention who is less threatening to the patient and someone who has more experience working with a patient in crisis,” said Dr. Scheiner.
Studies following the Denver Star Program found that neighborhood neighborhoods experienced a 34% decrease in low crime.
It’s promising data and hopefully Detroit can reverse it.
Mental health activist Alexandria Hughes says she will be watching.
“I don’t think this is the end, every solution,” Hughes said, “but I will say it is the beginning of what we must have.”