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Tulsa Mental Health Response Team Gets 2018 Funding


A program to streamline response to mental health emergencies in Tulsa gets funding so it can operate throughout 2018.

The Community Response Team puts a police officer, paramedic and psychiatric professional together to respond to mental health emergencies.

"Instead of a separate several police officers, a fire apparatus, and possibly an EMSA unit coming, all different units there, we're able to come in one vehicle as a collaborative team with a mental health focus," said Tulsa Fire Emergency Medical Services Chief Michael Baker.

The Community Response Team had a successful first run over several weeks starting in August.

"And that's what our goal is for 2018 and the new funding that we have now, is to be able to have at least two days per week throughout the year of 2018 and to really impact the mental well-being of Tulsans," Baker said.

Tulsa Area United Way is providing $106,011 in special funding to make that happen. The City of Tulsa got 13,000 911 calls last year for mental health crises, and the hope is the Community Response Team will lessen the time other first responders spend on those.

"Once that team arrives and begins to assess the situation, they can release patrol officers back to take higher-priority calls, allow fire apparatus to return to service or EMSA units to not transport if the situation does not require one to go to the hospital," Baker said.

The Community Response Team is a collaboration of Mental Health Association Oklahoma, Tulsa Police Department, Tulsa Fire Department, and Family & Children’s Services’ Community Outreach Psychiatric Emergency Services.

Matt Trotter joined KWGS as a reporter in 2013. Before coming to Public Radio Tulsa, he was the investigative producer at KJRH. His freelance work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times and on MSNBC and CNN.