El Paso began placing clinicians at their 911 centers in order to better respond to mental health calls.
Emergence Health Network – a local agency that provides mental health services – has 16 clinicians stationed at the El Paso Regional Communications Center in Northeast, working on the same floor as 911 call takers.
The clinicians, who started working there in February, have been trained to de-escalate emotionally distressing situations on the phone and dispatch a crisis intervention team when a person is at risk of harming themselves or others.
“A lot of times people dialing 911 really have more of a mental health need than a need for the traditional law enforcement, fire or medical,” said Scott Calderwood, director of El Paso 911 District. “This is an opportunity for us to continue to reimagine what the next generation of 911 can look like, the ability to match the correct resource with a caller’s needs.”
Clinicians assist 911 call takers, who mark their calls from a list of categories including suicide and mental disorder. Aside from 911, people can still text and call 988 to reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, as well as call Emergence Health Network’s 24-hour crisis hotline at 915-779-1800.
There are multiple techniques to counsel people through a behavioral crisis, even over the phone, that can reduce the necessity of dispatching police, said Tara Blunk, an Emergence Health Network clinician who directs the mental health team at the 911 center.
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