January report – The Co-Responders Program

The January 13 Second Precinct Advisory Council was called to order at 6:17, 17 attenders. 

Our presenters were Cathy Perendy and Jeff Starr the MPD Co-Responder team assigned to the Second Precinct. 

In Sept., 2017, a pilot project was launched at the 3rd and 5th Precincts, intended to change interactions between people with mental health issues and MPD first responders.  The scenario the S’Trib reported too often ended with  “[person] taken into custody and transferred to HCJ” —  a response that offered no long term positive outcomes — people were simply housed in HCJ  with no treatment until “a bed could be found”.  It is part of Chief Arradondo’s broadest goal to give people with mental and emotional issues help to find the services they need.  Two years later, the pilot project was successful enough to be granted a line in the city’s 2019 budget insuring permanent support and expansion to all 5 Precincts.  The program was begun in other precincts based on the number of mental health calls logged per precinct.  The Second Precinct program began in June, 2019.

When someone’s actions alarm family or bystanders, when a person’s health professionals feel a person may be heading for crisis, or when a person feels overwhelmed, a 911 call is the quickest way to get the help needed to stop a situation from going any further.  But that is as far as  MPD officers’ training goes. 

Assessing someone’s needs and facilitating their access to the right social services is best handled by trained and experienced Mental Health Professionals (MHP),  like those found in Community Outreach for Psychiatric Emergencies (COPE)  [See an explanation of COPE at www.hennepin.us/mentalhealthcrisis]  Note that there is a separate program called Child Crisis for people age 17 and under.  Services from both programs are available regardless of a person’s ability to pay.  Both programs are available 24/7.  The Cope line is 612-596-1223  and the Child Crisis line is 612-348-2233.    

The Co-Responder Program pairs a Mental Health Professional from COPE with a police officer who is dressed in a “soft uniform”  (dark trousers and a polo shirt) which helps dissipate the tension triggered by sirens, flashing lights and full-uniform police first responders.  After the first responders have declared the situation “safe for civilians”, the Co-Responders arrive in an unmarked official car:  no insignia, no siren, no flashing lights. 

As soon as they arrive, the Co-Responders begin their assessment.  The First Responders leave when everyone agrees they’re not needed.  Possibly the first need is to calm the situation further, so the client feels safe enough to share what was going on.  Possibly a person had not been taking their medications for a while and the officers need to stay longer, in case they’re needed.  The MHP has the training needed to provide a provisional diagnosis,  knows what services are available to meet the immediate needs of the client, and can get the client immediately into the service stream, if that is what is needed.  This is a way for fragile people to “jump the waiting line” and quickly get support — they already have a diagnosis so they’ll have more rapid access to treatment. 

If the MHP determines that a client  is a danger to themselves or others, or if they are not caring for themselves to the extent that the Co-Responders have a concern about the client’s immediate well-being or safety, the MHP can write a “transportation hold’ with the purpose of keeping everyone safe from harm.  A transportation hold means that the person must go to the hospital, but can be transported in the team’s  vehicle.  They can’t leave the hospital until they’ve been assessed by a psychiatrist.  (This is not the same as a “72-hour” hold, which is a different document.)

The MPD “Inside MPD” page on the co-responder program is out of date (as of 1-14-20), but does provide a  statement of intentions. [See https://www.insidempd.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/Focusing-on-Procedural-Justice-Internally-and-Externally-2018-5.pdf]     However,  just this month (1/2 issue), the MINNPOST printed an extensive background article — https://www.minnpost.com/metro/2019/01/how-co-responder-teams-are-changing-the-way-minneapolis-police-deal-with-mental-health-calls/elfchg   or tinyurl – https://tinyurl.com/snco6nq
How it works — The 2nd Precinct Co-Responder team is on site Monday-Friday, 10 AM to 6 PM.  (services are available 24/7, see above)  On Monday morning,  the calls received over the weekend are printed off and those suspected of being mental health related are flagged.   Ms Perendy then begins making phone calls to contact the first caller, relatives, neighbors, friends and others to find how if further contact  or assessment is wanted or needed.  She noted that people do express satisfaction that someone is following through — her calls are evidence that the police do care about the client’s well-being.   The team also calls people who have not been taken to a hospital, to find out how things are going for the client and for others.  She leaves her phone number and the COPE number with people the team has contacted.   Note that COPE can provide all the services that the co-responders provide but may call for help if a transport is needed.
Ms Perendy emphasized that people don’t know how many services are out there, or how to contact those services.  She can let people know about those services and put people in touch with them.  Additionally, since Perendy and Starr are in the Precinct, officers have gotten to know them, and officers also have started asking for the co-responder team to show up.    Officer  Starr pointed out that when first responders show up, they’re there to stop an event.  When the C-R team shows up, they introduce themselves make it plain they are there to listen and to understand so they can find and provide help — it reframes the situation.  
QUESTIONS from the floor:  HOW MANY CALLS DO YOU GET?  Number of calls vary day to day and season by season  —  holidays seem to be triggers.   Sometimes a family member or friend can be a bridge, assisting with access and helping a person accept help.  Sometimes, Ms. Perendy will coach a relative  or friend on what to say when they call 911 so they don’t leave out critical information.QUESTION – do people call COPE to “get back to a neighbor” with whom they’re having a dispute?  The person (COPE or Co-Responder) answering the call will steer the conversation back to the person who is being reported.  They determine what the relationship is between the caller and the target, and what is actually going on.  If someone seems to be at risk due to mental health issues (of either party)  Cope or the Co-Responder will follow through as it seems appropriate.
OPIOIDS AND Other drugs – If there has been an overdose, that person needs to get to a hospital.  There isn’t as much a mental health professional can do until the person is out of danger.  The team can follow up and offer treatment, and leave follow up information, but the person needs to accept help.    She will try to contact after the incident. 
QUESTION – Are persons from other cultures more resistant to accepting help.  ANSWER — That has been true in the past, but Ms. Perenty believes that has started to change.  They are beginning to have cross-cultural conversations.   Every culture promotes family, love, belonging, wanting to help. 
MORE QUESTIONS??  Send them to Emilie who will forward them to Ms Perendy and Officer Starr.  [e-quas@tc.umn.edu]I have the info handout on COPE and CHILDCRISIS and will get you a copy if you contact me at the above email address.  Please don’t just reply to this mail.

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