New Tempe 911 response now sends mental health professionals instead of police officers to some crisis

Tempe 911 dispatchers are now making some mental health calls to Solari Crisis & Human Services based in Tempe. – Tempe . picture

Written by Nicole Grayson Exclusive to

More than 150 calls from Tempeans needing emergency help during mental health crises have been handled differently since this year’s partnership changed how the city responds to 911 calls.

This year the city council unanimously approved a contract with Tempe-based Solari Crisis & Human Services, which operates crisis hotlines in central and northern Arizona that receives about 22,000 calls each month.

Solari specialists have begun working alongside Tempe 911 dispatchers to respond to calls from non-violent suicide bombers. Callers immediately speak with Solari consultants with expertise in psychology, social work and counseling.

According to the city, as of June 2022, Solari had responded to about 152 calls, with assistance ranging from helping stabilize an individual in a crisis by phone to sending a mobile team to someone in need.

This represents a change in how the city responds to these calls. Instead of quickly dispatching Tempe police officers as in the past, dispatchers are now trained to screen calls and identify the position of each caller – and if the caller is nonviolent and does not pose an immediate threat to himself or others – connect them to a Solari advisor without including the police department that had previously That responded to such calls.

Matthew Moody, director of call center operations and clinical services at Solari, said the consultant takes over the call, does a quick risk assessment of the caller and determines what needs to be done.

“We are focused on hearing the person, helping them feel validated and supported, identifying the factors that led them to this place, determining what is happening with them, how to help and next steps,” Modi said.

If it is determined that a caller needs personal assistance, Solari dispatches a crisis response team. If an emergency call reveals that someone in crisis is armed or violent, Tempe police officers are dispatched.

Crisis response teams from EMPACT, TERROS or Spectrum are available for dispatch when needed, but in the future, the city plans to have CARE 7 mobile teams in place to be the first choice for in-person dispatch assistance.

CARE 7 has been the 24/7 crisis response unit in Tempe since 1997. Certified team members with police and Tempe Fire medical rescue personnel respond to assist people in trauma after events such as domestic violence, motor vehicle accidents, sexual or physical assaults , suicides, homicides, residential fires, drowning and other unexpected deaths. The team also provides counseling to youth, families, and veterans.

Modi said most situations are resolved over the phone, with the caller referred to supportive care, such as counselling.

Also, Solari consultants ask to follow up with each caller within three days to check their status.

Modi said the program is a “significant change from the way we in the past put crisis care and mental health on the police.”

Tempe Mayor Corey Woods said Tempe has had to devise its own approaches to caring for people in crises.

“Tembe will be the first city in Maricopa County, and possibly in Arizona, to have its own team of mental health counselors responding to in-person crisis calls,” Woods said. Ultimately, it is hoped Tempe and Solari will move to expand beyond suicide-related calls to also address those involving anxiety, substance abuse, family issues, or other mental health issues.

“Tempe is a pioneer in creating new models for human services and public safety. This new model will get the best response to a person in a crisis and give police officers more time to focus on fighting crime.”

Police Chief Jeff Glover agreed that officers can now focus more on preventing and responding to crime. Tempe Police received more than 1,700 calls to the mental health service in 2021.

“Tempe police officers are the best at what they do to keep our community safe,” Glover said.

“We are delighted that this partnership will allow their true expertise to shine through and give mental health experts the opportunity to present their skills to those in crisis.”

According to Susie Stickner, Tempe’s public information officer, the city’s approach to helping people in crises will include a new mental health response team, called MyHRT — pronounced my heart — made up of a licensed social worker and another master’s-level mental health professional. health professionals. The city is about to finalize the hiring of the team, which is set to begin work this year.

Steakner said community members would be better served in many ways in public health and wellness.

On-site crisis response will be a focus, but the team will also provide general mental health assistance to individuals and families who are experiencing but not in immediate crisis. Prevention services will also be provided.

Redirecting mental health calls to the service was a recommendation from the city’s Public Safety Advisory Task Force, a group of community members appointed by Woods shortly after he was sworn in two years ago to study ways to increase community trust in policing.

The work of the task force led to a comprehensive community safety plan for Tempe that will be implemented over several years.

need help? If you or someone you know is experiencing a behavioral health crisis, call the Maricopa County Crisis Line 1‑800‑631‑1314.