911 operators need more training to handle mental health crisis calls. Here's why it matters.

911 operators need more training to handle mental health crisis calls. Here's why it matters.
Posted on Oct 26 2021
USA Today

A recent Pew Charitable Trusts survey found few responding call centers have staff with mental health crisis training. Most centers do not have access to mental health professionals who can help with the calls or first responders in the field trained to handle such crises. The data overrepresent areas with predominately white populations. Still, the results provide a snapshot of what people experience every day across the country when they seek help for a mental health crisis: That it often isn't there, said Angela Kimball, national director of government relations, policy and advocacy at NAMI. Only about 2 in 5 centers said they had access to mobile crisis response teams of trained police and clinicians paired. "Millions of people every year experience a mental health crisis, and they deserve to have a response that is not a law enforcement response," Kimball said. The survey found that compared to urban areas, rural 911 call centers were more likely to lack access to behavioral health clinicians to guide the call or connect patients to care. "The hope here is that people are starting to really recognize and name mental health crises. And they want a different response," Kimball said. "So now it is really up to our country to invest in that different response."