Behavioral Health 9-1-1 Calls Will Dispatch Professional Counselors

New and innovative partnership with St. Martin’s Hope Works, seeks to improve outcomes and create efficiencies.

Albuquerque, NM- Starting next month (November) licensed, master’s level behavioral health clinicians with St. Martin’s Hope Works will be responding to behavioral health crisis alongside Bernalillo County and City of Albuquerque first-responders. The Mobile Crisis Teams [MCT] project, created by the Behavioral Health Initiative, is designed to improve the outcomes of 911 calls. This community-based approach eliminates intimidating office or hospital environments, connecting the professional with the person in need within their own home. The teams will work to stabilize the individual, link them and their family to a support system of resources and suggest treatment options.

For the first time ever, Bernalillo County and the City of Albuquerque created a joint request to the community, asking social work and counseling organizations to apply to staff the Mobile Crisis Teams. As a pilot program the city and county are splitting the $500,000 contract, with money for continued funding and/or expansion based on the results.

"From the very beginning of our work on behavioral health, crisis response services have been a high priority for our community and for the Bernalillo County Commission," said Commissioner Maggie Hart Stebbins. "We have recognized the need to improve interactions between law enforcement and people who are suffering from a mental health crisis and have worked closely with stakeholders to design and fund the initiative we announce today. We’re honored to work with the City of Albuquerque and St. Martin’s to provide these services to our community.”

“This partnership is another example of the community collaborations and engagement which we’re utilizing to address and solve complex issues within the greater Albuquerque region. We’ve heard countless success stories of the ‘There’s a Better Way’ program with St. Martins and look forward to more through this new program,” said Mayor Richard J. Berry.

All programs created by the Behavioral Health Initiative have been thoroughly researched and proposed by volunteer-based committees. Dr. Kathy Finch is part of the Community Support Subcommittee and sat on the evaluation committee for this project. “Often when a loved one is about to become a danger to themselves or others a family’s only reasonable alternative has been to call 911. And all too often their loved one ended up in jail. Now family members will have a direct link to training, treatment, and support,” said Dr. Finch.

Bernalillo County Sheriff Manuel Gonzales III and Albuquerque Chief Gorden Eden Jr., both expressed their appreciation and the benefits of the MCT partnership.

“Working with the behavioral health initiative has given myself and our deputies additional methods and insight to guide us through interacting with people who are in crisis and those who are managing and living with a behavioral health issue,” said Sheriff Gonzales. “The behavioral health initiative combined with our robust crisis intervention training is improving outcomes and devising solutions to mental health issues throughout our community.”

“Through our Crisis Outreach and Support Teams, our Crisis Intervention Training, and now, the advancement of the Mobile Crisis Teams, we are being recognized nationally for the way we respond to those suffering from mental health crises,” said Chief Eden. “Our positive outcomes continue to increase, and we are connecting individuals with the right resources.”  

Mobile Crisis Teams are expected to decrease the costly and inappropriate use of emergency rooms, hospital and jail recidivism, and interactions with the criminal justice system.

The Mobile Crisis Teams will be on shifts which, based on data, show the greatest need and likelihood of receiving these types of calls.

Together, Bernalillo County and the City of Albuquerque are strategically leveraging resources and making decisions with community member and stakeholder inputs through the Behavioral Health Initiative. This endeavor creates a model for improving behavioral health outcomes that could be replicated across the country.

For more information about BHI click here.