Leah Kaiser holds an advanced degree in forensic psychology. She worked on the East Coast for several years and then in Hennepin County Juvenile Corrections, chiefly with the Juvenile County Home School. Six years ago she moved to Hennepin County Health and Human Services. Currently she oversees the mental health system and people living with addictions, including both operative services (teams that deliver ) and the larger network.
There is an intersection between mental health/or behavioral health and criminal justice which mental health and law enforcement officials are beginning to align.
Background of the current program:
5 years ago, partners in public safety and human services began looking at the people cycling through the courts and the jails who’s mental illness was driving their criminal behaviors. Despite the many services, interventions and resources, a small group of people continued to cycle and show poor outcomes.
Profile of this cohort: They have a lot of interaction with the police and cycle through the justice system. They have mental health or addiction issues. They often have housing instability or are homeless.
The County Board, along with the Criminal Justice Coordinating Committee, launched the Criminal Justice Behavioral Initiative.
Ms Kaiser conveined representatives from the agencies, County and City, that deal with this cohort. People from the MPD, the HCSO, 911, Public Defender’s Office and more have been meeting for almost 6 years.
They started with looking at the systems in use elsewhere to evaluate what was and wasn’t working well and found the Sequential Intercept Model. This model was developed by SAMHSA. It suggests you divide the interaction by intercepts across the criminal justice system. The first contact for a person with mental illness is often a police officer (usually), then jail, court, probation, community. The model shows where, in this process, you want to have a certain kind of response. The team could look at the Hennepin model in comparison with the national model, and see where the Hennepin County model could improve. They found that H.C. had a lot going on at the end of the system (policies, services, data) but very little at the beginning, the first contact someone has with law enforcement.
For the last five years, members of the team have been lobbying for money to support new programs and policies, earlier in the intercept channel.
The team started with a new kind of training, Crisis Intervention Training (CIT), which was added to the training program for Police Academy recruits. The Co-Responder model was developed as an alternative first “intercept” (Kathy Waite was one of the people who worked on that model). The program has also put social workers in H.C. Jail and in the Adult Corrections Facility in Plymouth. They have developed the forensic ACT which is like a hospital without walls, which provides a 24-hour service team supporting people with serious mental illness who are also on probation. The teams help people stay on their meds so their symptoms are managed and they don’t continue to commit offenses.
The team created the Behavioral Health Center at 1800 Chicago, a facility where people with low level offenses can get help. People who want help can walk in and get it (ph. 612-540-5700). If an officer finds a person with a low level offense (open bottle, trespassing, disorderly, etc) she can use 1800 as a drop-off center. When the officer brings the person to 1800 Chicago Ave., the criminal system disengages and the social service system takes over. The Center provides mental and chemical health treatment, financial, food and medical help, housing and transportation programs and employment resources. While 1800 Chicago is intended to meet the immediate needs of a crisis, the teams have found that unless they understand what went on before the crisis and what a successful outcome will look like, the process is likely to repeat.
Ms. Kaiser reminded us that this body of work is not limited to what happens in the Second Precinct or even Minneapolis. The strategy covers all of Hennepin County.
Many of her team have worked on the form of the Co-Responder Program we had (pre-Covid-19) at the Second Precinct. They are now starting to field 911 calls; some go out with an officer, but others go out on their own. The intent is to let cops do what cops are trained to do, and to let mental health professionals do their work also. They found that the presence of an officer, even in soft uniform, can escalate a situation. Also along these lines, a system with the Downtown Improvement District is being developed that involves no officers in response, but does leverage mental health professional services. A lot of these calls involve addiction issues.
One of the programs, Restorative Court, started with the City Attorney’s office and the Judiciary. When a person first appears in court, providing the person is willing to engage, the City Attorney’s office, Social Services and the Court discuss if Social Services can support them. If that is in place, the City Attorney can offer a better disposition, but it is hinged on the client’s continuing to work with social services toward an agreed upon outcome. This has produced encouraging recidivism stats: of 144 clients who entered Restorative Court, 100 did NOT re-offend (69%), and 84% were people of color.
Ms Kaiser emphasized that the services and programs she’s described are not the work of any one program or office. These services have been developed through consultation and collaboration.
QUESTION: Is there any talk about changing the response model to 911 calls not involving weapons? The asker has done ride-alongs with University Police; it seemed like most calls were about trespassing or livability issues.
ANSWER: This is being discussed. Hennepin County just passed a resolution stating that a task force will study the system and implement improvements. A year ago, they launched a pilot program with the Sheriff’s Office 911 dispatch — note that the S.O. does dispatch for its own officers and 8 cities (not including Mpls.). A year ago, Kaiser’s team put a mental health professional into dispatch to start studying what change could look like. There are various levels of security and privacy issues that affect how a 911 call can be handled.
There is also a cultural habit to deal with. Right now, citizens are conditioned to call 911 for emergencies, starting with very young children–that is the default. Similarly, police officers are the default, and they know this and do know that they’ll be called in for situations that have nothing to do with breaking any law.
The ultimate goal of the mental health teams is to get people the help they need in the quickest way. We have to turn the impulse away from “Call 911” every time, to calling the response that will access the most on-point response. There never will be a one-call-fits-all number and it’s reckless to suggest that. Similarly, it’s reckless to talk about never calling the cops because there are incidents that need trained, armed professionals. The goal is to get people the help they need so they will stabilize and no longer need to call for help over and over to get their needs met. We’re living in a time when we need to accelerate our efforts, but at the same time, we need to be careful that we don’t tear down something that is helpful and needed.
QUESTION: What happened to the Co-Responder program that was pulled out of the Precinct at the beginning of the pandemic?
ANSWER: We have a contract with the City of Mpls but are waiting for direction from the City about what model they want — they have several models to explore. Additionally, the models will be changing as Covid-19 vaccines roll out. The teams will be looking at if some kinds of service retain effectiveness with remote contact. If some levels of service seem to require going out into the field, they’ll figure out how to do that and when it’s most needed.
Right now, the services that were offered through COPE are still in place, but the agency has changed how they’re operated. [In Hennepin County, Adults 18+ call 612.596.1223 – Children 17 and under 612.348.2233 – Anywhere in the state, call **CRISIS 274747 to reach the nearest County crisis team]
Ms Kaiser added that it’s important for people to remember that they can reach out for help before things escalate to a crisis. They can help people navigate the system, look at possible responses and hopefully forestall a crisis entirely. Hennepin County has a call center that helps people get connected to social services. Its called the “Front Door” 612-348-4111 and has social workers waiting to field those calls.
For a parting note, Ms. Kaiser suggested people look at the five year report and send any questions to her. See https://www.hennepin.us/-/media/hennepinus/your-government/projects-initiatives/documents/Criminal_Justice-Behavioral_Health_Initiative_Report_2020.pdf
**EQ: Wikipedia has an excellent SIM page: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/
Recording of this Zoom meeting has available on Youtube: https://youtu.be/o-VQ_Lw8RDk
Emilie Quast, board member
MPD Second Precinct Advisory Council (2-PAC)
Minneapolis MN 55418