GILBERT, Ariz. - The Gilbert Police Department has added a brand-new unit focused on crisis response, and many of their calls are related to mental health.
So far, Gilbert Police's Crisis Response Team is already averaging about 15 to 16 calls per day. On the morning of Oct. 31, they had a suicidal woman reach out for help.
"We put out a social media post about the team and we gave an email, and this morning, we had a citizen reach out via email saying ‘I’m in crisis. Can someone call me?’" said Sgt. Dan Brause, who is in charge of the Crisis Response Team. "She was depressed and had a lot of issues going on for years, and the last time police were out there, she was involuntarily committed to a hospital, and she didn’t like that. She felt she was arrested. So when she saw we had a dedicated crisis team, she thought we could do a better job, so my officer went out there, talked to her, and we found a better solution."
The group of officers in the team spend an extra 80 hours in negotiation and de-escalation training. They respond to calls with children or adults with developmental disabilities, homeless people with mental illnesses, veterans with PTSD, and anyone with addiction problems.
"We allow the patrol officers to handle the crime. Our team has the time to spend on the backend, giving them resources to help with any kind of crisis that could have evolved from this call," aid Sgt. Brause.
Team members can either assist patrol officers already on scene, or take over the call completely. Sometimes, they bring counselors with them, and at other times, they establish what the caller needs first.
"Once we get to that call, we're not going to be called to other calls, and we can spend whatever it is – 15 minutes, 20 minutes, two hours, three hours, with a family connecting them to whatever resources we can find, whether its local state or county," said Sgt. Brause.
The goal is to get people the specific assistance they need on each call, because with emergency calls, it is not one size fits all.
"We’ve evolved as a police department to where we don’t just show up to calls and say we have this option or that option," said Sgt. Brause. "We now have a lot of leeway in how we can handle these, and we're the dedicated team that can do that."
Sgt. Brause says this follows in the footsteps of other local departments that also have crisis response teams, like Scottsdale and Phoenix.
If you or a loved one is feeling distressed, call 988. CLICK HERE for the warning signs and risk factors of suicide.