DETROIT (WXYZ) — “Kiazia Miller, Porter Burkes, these aren’t just anomalies, they happen all the time,” said community mental health activist Alexandria Hughes.
Alexandria Hughes is a mental health activist in Detroit who has spent the year organizing rallies calling for a third-party mental health response team in Detroit.
She told me her passion is fueled by close friends who have mental health issues and feel more triggered when the police respond to help.
“Not having those resources or knowing where to go or feeling like the resource was the people who hurt my friend were the resource were the people who hurt my friend,” Hughes said.
“It’s scary to see that every day is scary.”
Supporting Hughes is Dr. Gerald Sheiner, a psychiatrist at Sinai-Grace Hospital and a professor at Wayne State University.
“Mental health care is in a state of crisis in our city and across the country,” said Dr. Gerald Shiener, psychiatrist at Sinai-Grace Hospital, professor at Wayne State University.
Dr. Sheiner responds to mental health patients in the hospital and says when these patients are going through their worst times – the presence of weapons or intimidating staff often makes the situation worse.
“Patients who experience this type of difficulty are often scared and think that everyone wants to hurt them,” Dr. Sheiner revealed.
“Mental health professionals are in the best position to respond to a mental health crisis, but mental health professionals are unavailable,” Dr. Sheiner said.
In the absence of a mental health response team, Detroit police responded to rising mental health calls.
According to DPD data, Detroit police responded to nearly 4,300 mental health calls this year, more than 1,000 of which involved violent offenders.
Additionally, the department responds to an average of 64 mental health rushes per day, more than three times as many as in 2020.
“That’s a lot. I feel like that’s more research to show that we just need more resources for mental health,” 7 Action News’ Sarah Grimmer told Dr Sheiner.
“64 calls a day exceeds the capacity of emergency services to deal with in many cases,” Dr. Sheiner said.
Now change can finally happen.
DPD partnered with Detroit Wayne’s Integrated Crisis Response Team for crisis response training, but now they’re also listening to activists like Hughes and working with Detroit Counselor Gabriela Santiago-Romero to create a non-police intervention program to combat non-violent mental disorders. health calls.
“The reality is that our police have seen an increase in mental health calls since the start of the pandemic. 50-60% of those calls are non-violent, meaning our police respond to a call that a mental health provider could answer,” said Detroit City Council member Gabriela Santiago-Romero.
Santiago-Romero says the task force will be similar to Denver’s Support Team Assisted Response (STAR) program or Portland’s Street Response program.
The STAR program deploys emergency medical technicians and behavioral health clinicians to engage people experiencing distress related to mental health, poverty and more.
“I think a direct response in mental health presents someone to intervene who is less threatening to a patient and someone who intervenes who has more experience with a patient in crisis,” Dr. Sheiner said.
Studies following the Denver STAR program found that neighborhoods that benefited from it saw a 34% decrease in low-level crime.
This is promising data and hopefully an improvement that Detroit can reflect.
Mental health activist Alexandria Hughes says she will be watching.
“I don’t think that’s the end of all the solutions, but I would say it’s the start of what we should have,” Hughes said.
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