Delco pilot program: Mental health teams will respond to 911 calls with police officers

Statistics show that one in four people who are in the criminal justice system have some type of mental health issue.
MEDIA, Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- Authorities in Delaware County are planning a new tactic to deal with an increasing number of mental health emergencies and 911 calls.

Mental health experts will soon be dispatched along with police officers.

Statistics show that one in four people who are in the criminal justice system have some type of mental health issue.

"This is happening every day. Every day in every town in Delaware County, and everywhere in Pennsylvania. All over the country there are people who are having a mental health crisis. Too often the police are the only ones who have to deal with that," said Delaware District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer.

But now through a $650,000 federal grant secured by Congresswoman Mary Gay Scanlon, Delaware County is about to start a new pilot program that will allow mobile crisis teams to respond to mental health emergencies alongside police officers.

SEE ALSO: Delaware County declares health emergency in response to Crozer Health closures
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Delaware County Council is declaring a health care crisis as Crozer Health is reportedly planning even more closures at its hospitals.

"Our goal was to give our first responders as many tools in our toolbox as possible so they have access to these individuals who are trained to handle these situations," said Dr. Monica Taylor, chair of the Delaware County Council.

"Every day people are calling 911 because they are in a crisis, either a family member or themselves, and they really don't know where to turn," said Tim Boyle, director of Delaware County Emergency Services.

Recently, Delaware County declared an emergency after Crozer Health systems -- the county's largest health care provider -- announced it was shutting down a number of mental health services.

"Our goal is to have all of those programs moved to other providers so that we're trying to provide the best care for our residents," said Dr. Taylor.

"We're answering more than 3,000 calls per year for behavioral health. Sending a police officer, frankly, that's not always the best solution," said Boyle.

"I've had police chiefs say to me, 'We need more services. We need help. We need more providers. And we really need help when we're in the street,'" said Stollsteimer.

The one-year pilot program is expected to kick off in the near future.
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