Feb Report, Part 1: The new 911 emergency responder: Canopy

Our meeting opened at 6:30, with 15 attenders  The speaker tonight is Joni Hodne, 911/MECC Assistant Director for the City of Minneapolis Emergency Communications. 

In May, 2021, Ms. Hodne  presented the state of the 911/311 response, which was a huge shift from what we’d heard in October, 2018 [https://courtwatch2pac.com/2019/01/13/oct-2-pac-meeting-report-911-emergency-center/].  In May, she stated that many of the protocols were under review and likely to change.   We agreed she’d be coming back when the new protocols had been tested and confirmed, or given a second rewrite.  Tonight was the night for our updates.  

[Here, Emilie had to leave to handle an administrative issue.  In the meantime…]

Lt. Christie Nelson popped in to introduce our new Inspector, Sean McGinty.  The Inspector let us know he was last assigned to the Second in 1997!  This is a happy return.

We were also very happy to learn that Inspector McGinty requested that Lt. Nelson be transferred back from the 3rd Pct. with him.   Right now, they’re concentrating on learning what they need to know about us to do their jobs well. 

Welcome back Inspector and Lieutenant!   We’re happy you’re here.  

Our speaker, Joni Hodne, arrived to tell us about our new Behavioral Crisis Response Unit.

Minneapolis Emergency Communications launched this response on December 13, 2021.  These are the teams who respond to people who are in crisis when there are no weapons involved.  Our current contract is with Canopy, whose website states, “We are a values-based mental health organization offering outpatient and online therapy options to best meet your needs. We provide culturally informed therapy services for historically underserved and marginalized populations in the Twin Cities.”   The current staff of 21 present a well-educated and culturally diverse roster.  (FFI, see: https://www.canopymhc.com/)

Early this month, they were able to extend their hours and are now responding 24 hours a day, M-F.  (Before, they were only responding between 7:30AM and midnight.)   The next extension will be adding responders for over the weekend, as well.   [This notice just appeared in the 2/15 City News –  Tiny URL: https://tinyurl.com/4ssbu3hs ]

Canopy’s typical client may be someone who needs shelter, or who just needs a referral to a shelter.   The responders carry water, snacks, gloves, blankets to meet immediate needs.

Responders will also go to a person who is having some kind of a crisis and who needs someone to listen.   After talking, if the client wishes, the responders will transport them to an appropriate response unit.

Right now, Canopy has two vans to transport people to services where the client can talk to a professional who can spend more time working with them. The vans are marked “Canopy Roots” on the sides.   Responders go out in groups of three.  They will respond to welfare checks.  They do not carry narcan but can call a squad.

The Minneapolis Office for Performance and Innovation, directed by Brian K. Smith, is now hiring specifically for jobs with Canopy, to work within the city of Minneapolis.  Contact that office (Phone: 612-673-2032   Mail:  350 S. 5th St, Room 301M, Minneapolis, MN 55415)  

Staff are required to meet the professional standard minimum of Masters’ level degree in Mental Health. 

Question:  Does this group duplicate services provided by Hennepin County?  

Hodne: The dispatch centers are separate, just due to the population of Mpls.  

P.O. Holly Ihrke added that people can still contact COPE directly.  1800 Chicago Ave services, including mental health services, detox, and other services which are still available for MPLS to use.  THe MPD can take people there directly and don’t need to go through Canopy.    There is still overlap with Hennepin County because Canopy is still a pilot program.  Sometimes Canopy doesn’t have a place to bring people, and it still is not operating 24/7.   Then Hennepin County services fill a huge need. 

QQ HC Co-Responder teams could sidestep the intake procedure, and get people into close care almost immediately with just a phone call.  Can Canopy do the same?  

Hodne: Ms. Hodne didn’t know but will ask at the next meeting.

Inspector McGinty pointed out that Canopy can only transport clients who will go voluntarily.   If something escalates, they will have to call for help.  Urgent care intake is HCMC.  

QQ: So Canopy can call 911 for backup?

McGinty:  They have done that.   We heard good things about them and know they acted well in the Third Pct.    Right now, the problem is “growing pains”.   It’s been a positive program.   Lt. Nelson has been more active with them. 

QQ:  Hennepin County Co-Responders would make follow up contacts with a person and/or with a person’s family, from intake to after release if that seemed appropriate.   Does Canopy have the manpower to do that?  That extended follow up seemed very important. 

Hodne:  Right now, they’re moving from call to call.  They are keeping access to info and records that we don’t have access to. She believes they may be doing that kind of follow up, but it may be something they are only planning at this point.  

QQ: How is Canopy activated, is it 911 or 311 or what?

Hodne:  911 call takers are trained to help you answer the questions so they can decide what kind of service is needed.  Does this call require a police response or a behavioral crisis response or….?  It’s our responsibility to help people sort through all that to determine what the best response might be.   The questions our Call Associates ask about safety, weapons, physical aggression and on, inform the decision.   Our main thing is stressing safety of the people involved AND the safety of responders going out there.   

QQ:  Two vans for the entire city is limiting.   It is a start.

Hodne:  We prioritize responses with our vans as we do with squads.   If we have two vans tied up, we still have street sergeants to help us find squads.    

QQ   How do you prioritize calls for emergency response from the MPD?  Person in danger, crime in progress, other?

Hodne:  Person in danger is always the first.  Then property being damaged.  After that we look at time factors: if there is a disturbance, what squads are available or close?

QQ In the 2018 report to 2-PAC, we heard that every call was heard by a call taker and by a dispatcher.   Is that still true?  

Hodne:  That has started up again.   Last spring, we tried cross-training, and learned that people who were very good call takers might not be as good at dispatching and vice versa.   We found that cross-training let people lose their edge; it’s specializing that keeps a skill sharp.   We’re back to two on a call.

Compliment:  The street cleaners working on SE 18th Ave between SE Como and East Hennepin were working both sides of the street with little regard for bike traffic.  He called 911, got transferred to 311 and got his complaint number.   When he got home, he called to ask if there’d been any response and discovered that traffic control had responded to the issue within the hour.   Good work at a busy time! 

Continued on Feb. report, Part 2

Emilie Quast, Board member


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