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New Team Hopes To Prevent Confrontations Between Police And Mentally Ill

When responding to calls involving someone with mental health issues, police officers often act as law enforcement and psychologists at the same time.

And sometimes police encounters with individuals suffering from a mental illness have resulted in officer-involved shootings and death.

Up until a month ago, Las Vegas Metro Police really had three options for people in need of mental health services. Police can take an individual to a hospital emergency room, bringing a person to jail, or leave a person alone, after making sure that person is not a safety threat.

A grant-based program called the Mobile Outreach Safety Team, wants to give officers more options. The program is a partnership with WestCare Nevada, a nonprofit addiction and psychiatric hospital, and Clark County.

Under the program, after police make contact with someone deemed in need of help but not in immediate danger to himself or others, the outreach team will follow up with a visit three to four days later.

Support comes from

"We are looking to provide wrap-around case management to the individuals that are frequenting the high-cost system," area director for WestCare Nevada Erin Kinard told KNPR's State of Nevada.

Wrap-around management means a team responds to a person who police say is in need of mental health services and provide resources for the person to become stabilized.  

Kinard pointed to a case with a woman who had a traumatic brain injury and who was self-medicating with drugs and alcohol. She also had a history of domestic violence and hoarding. The team cleaned up her home, got her into programs to help with her addictions and put her onto balanced medications. 

Kinard said the mobile outreach model is more cost effective, because emergency rooms, psychiatric hospitals and jails are far more expensive than preventing a crisis in the first place.

"If we can deploy a team that can help prevent these crises from ever happening and prevent these individuals from ever hitting these high-cost systems, it is a win-win situation," Kinard said.

Since the team started in December, they have responded to 11 calls. The hope is to eventually be able to go out on mental health crisis calls with police officers. 

GUEST: 

Erin Kinard, area director, WestCare Nevada

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