Nashville invests in training to pair police and mental health professionals | Opinion
In Nashville, we have experienced an ongoing mental health crisis that predated COVID-19 and will likely continue as the world returns to normal.
On any given day, a Nashville police officer may find himself or herself driving to a small, one-story building tucked away in MetroCenter, amid office parks and car dealerships.
This building, Nashville’s first 24/7 crisis center built by the Mental Health Cooperative, treats approximately 245 adults and children per month who are battling severe mental and emotional disorders.
Within 10 minutes, that police officer who has responded to a mental health call can safely and securely drop off someone experiencing mental distress to a licensed clinician and return to their beat, fulfilling their role of public safety.
Before the creation of the crisis center, MHC found that people experiencing psychosis too often fell into Nashville’s jails or emergency rooms where they would either experience further harm or not receive adequate care.
Nashville needed a space that was as accessible as an ER, but as patient-centric and holistic as a behavioral health care facility.
MHC partnered with Metro Nashville police on co-response model
At the crisis center, people stay for an average of 23 hours, and receive an evaluation by a psychiatrist or advanced practice nurse, detox services, group therapy, medication if warranted, and find tools to prevent future crises.
Often, the folks who walk through our doors are at or below the poverty line, including those experiencing homelessness. At the crisis center, they can find a place to wash their clothes, store their belongings, and meet with a discharge planner to ensure they are referred to an outpatient service where they can receive ongoing psychiatric care.
In addition to the crisis center, MHC developed a co-response model with the Metro Nashville Police Department to train police officers to respond alongside licensed clinicians to mental distress calls, which account for 3,000 of MNPD’s calls annually.
This model, beginning as a pilot program in the North and Hermitage precincts, will allow trained mental health experts to help deescalate interactions while relying on police for public safety, with the hope to divert individuals to the crisis center where they can receive appropriate and adequate care from licensed and trained professionals.
While this co-response model is a positive step forward to supporting mental health, it will also increase the demand for services at the crisis center.
Nashville city leaders help fully fund crisis center
MHC’s crisis center relies on a budget funded primarily through TennCare and the Tennessee Department of Mental Health Services (TDMHSAS). Of the nearly 250 consumers we treat each month, approximately 60% are uninsured, forcing the center to absorb the cost of care, leaving the center with a budget that falls $2.2 million short.
While Metro Nashville has historically provided some funding, it hasn’t come near the immense value the crisis center provides to Nashville’s emergency responders, hospitals, and vulnerable populations. Additionally, if we make the co-response model permanent, the need for our center will only increase.
That’s why we’re proud to see that Mayor John Cooper, along with Council Member Kyonzté Toombs and other advocates, have provided over $2 million in this year’s budget to fully fund MHC’s crisis center and help us anticipate an increase in consumers.
Nearly 15 months after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have become accustomed to discussing the need for mental health care both locally and nationally. Here in Nashville, we have experienced an ongoing mental health crisis that predated the pandemic and will likely continue as the world around us begins to return to normal.
This year’s budget demonstrates that Nashville’s leaders are not only ready to address mental health needs in our community, but put real investments in the infrastructure necessary to respond to those in crisis. By investing in the crisis center and the co-response model with the MNPD, we can build toward a future where mental health clinicians can safely respond to soft crises without the need for a police presence.
We thank Mayor John Cooper and Nashville’s Metro Council for passing a budget that values mental health infrastructure and fully funding MHC’s Crisis Treatment CentSource: Nashville Tennessean – Opinion