Shreveport fine-tuning its responses to 911 calls involving mental health issues

SPD has responded to 1,691 calls involving mental health crises so far this year, police chief said
[Source: KSLA News 12 file photo]
[Source: KSLA News 12 file photo]
Published: Aug. 15, 2022 at 4:52 PM CDT
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SHREVEPORT, La. (KSLA) — When you dial 911, it’s usually in times of emergency.

On Monday (Aug. 15), representatives of several agencies came together to announce improvements to the crisis response team for people in mental crisis.

KSLA News 12 asked how this will immediately change the way first responders approach certain calls.

Speaking during a news conference, Shreveport Police Chief Wayne Smith said people in mental crisis will be directed to responders trained to handle such situations. He said they have had 150 officers complete new crisis training.

Shreveport Police Department has responded to 1,691 calls involving mental health crises so far this year, the police chief said.

Officials say the COVID-19 pandemic has only further escalated the level of emotional distress for people.

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Conservative estimates are that more than 50% of all 911 calls received by law enforcement include symptomatic displays of mental illness or mental health disorders. With an average of 900 calls monthly, it is possible that more than 5,000 calls for law enforcement service annually are triggered in response to a mental health crisis.

In some situations, the police chief chief acknowledged, police may not be the best agency to respond.

To make this shift, the City of Shreveport, its police and fire departments and LSU Health were all involved.

Dr. James Patterson, chairman of the department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at LSU Health Shreveport, said this shift is about serving people with mental illness in a way that best serves them and the community.

Eventually, the police chief hopes to have all of of his officers trained and to be able to designate certain calls to clinicians and organizations that specialize in mental health services.

The adjustments stem, in part, from a grant the U.S. Justice Department awarded to LSU Health Shreveport and the Shreveport Police Department in June 2021 to participate in the Academic Training to Inform Police Responses.

A portion of this training, led by Policy Research Associates, was used for the Sequential Intercept Mapping workshop held May 16-17, which resulted in development of an action plan to improve the crisis response system in Shreveport.

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