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City of Tallahassee launches program aimed at responding to mental health-related emergency calls

Responders include a counselor, EMT, and police officer
Posted at 6:43 PM, Apr 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-21 18:43:08-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — After a year of deadly-officer-involved shootings, activists like Delilah Pierre are calling for better mental health resources from the city of Tallahassee.

"We knew Mychael Johnson and Tony McDade had reached out asking for mental health help," said Pierre.

City leaders now answering that call with the Tallahassee Emergency Assessment Mobile Unit, or TEAM. Leaders met to unveil the program Wednesday morning.

"Our TEAM allows us to expand how we serve our community and provide the most appropriate response," said Mayor John Dailey.

When someone in a mental health crisis calls 9-1-1, TEAM will respond as long as it is non-violent. The group is made up of a counselor with Apalachee Center, a trained EMT, and a trained police officer.

"Our Tallahassee Police Officers do a fantastic job with mental health calls every day but we recognize there are those who are better trained," said Tallahassee Police Chief Lawrence Revell.

The Consolidated Dispatch Agency says they receive roughly 2,300 non-violent mental health calls in a year. The process starts with the CDA. The dispatch is trained on the important questions to ask and how to phrase them. The dispatch must be able to get enough information to figure out if the call is violent or not. If there are weapons or threats of harm, a uniformed officer responds. In the case the situation turns violent, that's where the officer-involved with TEAM steps in.

One key change to make sure the situation doesn't turn violent- the officer will not arrive in uniform.

"Many times the uniform will exacerbate the situation, not help. The more we can tone that down, the better it is for the person in crisis," said Chief Revell.

The goal is to eventually expand the number of counselors within TEAM.

That's something community activists like Delilah Pierre wants to see.

"I want to see a training program centered around helping people and extended, not limited or cut in the future," said Pierre.

City manager Reese Goad assures funding will remain.

"I think this is a modern-day form of public safety. The allocation of funds, we'll work through those issues but it's not of high concern," he said.

TEAM officially launched on March 29. City leaders said the first call came within that first hour.

Tallahassee joins Alachua County and St. Petersburg with this type of mental health response.