The City Launches Co-Response Pilot Program to Support Individuals in Behavioral Health Crisis
The City of Alexandria has launched a co-response pilot program that pairs a specially trained law enforcement officer and a licensed, behavioral health clinician to respond in tandem to calls for persons experiencing a behavioral health crisis. The Alexandria Co-Response Program (ACORP) is a collaborative effort between the Alexandria Police Department (APD) and the Department of Community and Human Services (DCHS).
The program was created in response to a request from the Alexandria City Council and part of a nationwide trend to revisit how communities respond to behavioral health crises. According to the Department of Justice, collaborative partnerships between law enforcement agencies and mental health providers as co-responding teams produce better outcomes for community members, police officers and agencies. Improvements include an increase in safety for both officers and individuals experiencing a behavioral health crisis, an increase in access to behavioral healthcare and connections to treatment, fewer arrests, and more diversions away from the criminal justice system and into the treatment system. Decreased, repeat encounters with the criminal justice system have also resulted in reduced costs to communities and improved relationships between law enforcement agencies and the community.
The ACORP team will respond to behavioral health-related emergency calls Monday through Friday, 12 p.m. -8 p.m., dispatched through the Department of Emergency and Customer Communications (DECC), whose communications officers are trained to identify emergency calls involving possible behavioral health crises. The ACORP team can also respond when requested directly by other first responders working in the community. In addition to responding to calls received by DECC, the team will conduct outreach to persons in need in the community with the goal of developing collaborative, therapeutic relationships and fostering connections to behavioral health resources. Data will be collected and analyzed throughout the pilot and used to guide future development of the program.
The team will use utilize best-practice, trauma-informed approaches to maximize helpful and safe outcomes for persons served, decrease the stigma associated with behavioral health calls for service, promote opportunities for racial sensitivity and equity, divert individuals from unnecessary incarceration or involuntary hospitalization, and deliver services in ways that deemphasize law enforcement as the sole response to persons in need of mental health assistance.
The ACORP pilot program will join other initiatives in the City’s efforts to help persons with behavioral health disorders receive the treatment and supports necessary to help them live safe, productive lives in the City. The program pairs with the City’s Crisis Intervention Team program, where police, fire, paramedics and other first responders are trained to respond to behavioral health crises.
The City reminds residents that people with mental health problems are no more likely to be violent than anyone else. The Department of Health and Human Services reports that most people with mental illness are not violent and only 3%-5% of violent acts can be attributed to individuals with a serious mental illness. In addition, people with severe mental illnesses are over 10 times more likely to be victims of violent crime than the general population.