EMCOT: An important tool to reduce arrests, police shootings

On Thursday City Council is poised to approve another 12-month contract between the city and Integral Health to fund the Expanded Mobile Crisis Outreach Team, a group of mental health professionals whose goal is to divert people dealing with mental health crises from going to jail or the emergency room.

The city’s contribution is $1.14 million for a year. That, along with whatever Integral Health contributes, funds a team of 21 mental health experts who show up alongside cops or EMS workers to 911 calls that likely involve mental health problems.

The stats indicate that is money very well spent. In 2017, EMCOT was called to respond to police or EMS calls 3,244 times. According to the Integral Care’s stats, nearly every time the cops called EMCOT for assistance, somebody who would have been arrested was instead provided mental health services.

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I wouldn’t be surprised if the diversion rate is a little inflated, in the sense that some of these folks might not have been arrested even in the absence of EMCOT. However, the stats and the anecdotes I’ve heard from the police department make it clear that the program has had a big impact, likely saving taxpayers millions in jail/health care costs.

When you read about officer-involved shootings, so many of them feature a person clearly experiencing a mental health crisis, in may times a suicidal crisis.

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