City of Tulsa announces expansion of 'Crisis Response Team' for mental health calls

Posted at 6:39 PM, Jul 19, 2017
and last updated 2017-07-20 05:30:40-04

City of Tulsa officials announced Wednesday its expanding their Crisis Response Team.

It’s program that helps keep people with mental health issues out of jails and hospitals.

The crisis response team is strategically assembled with officers, firefighters and mental health professionals.

“I think by the time we're done implementing we'll be a national model for shifting a department towards community policing," said Tulsa Mayor GT Bynum.

Tulsa Fire Captain Bill Esmeyer is part of a special team working behind the scenes at the fire department.

His group of fire paramedics are scan for calls, looking to see how they can respond to people in crisis.

“For me this is one of the programs I like because you actually make a direct impact on their life right then you can see the feedback," said Esmeyer.

Back in January, the City of Tulsa rolled out the Crisis Response Team.

It's a special unit of police, fire and mental health professionals working together.

The team helps get people in crisis to mental health organizations, instead of filling up jail cells or emergency room beds.

“It's actually a fantastic program. It's actually doing what they set out with their goals and objectives which is to quit tying up police officers, quit tying up emergency rooms, quit tying up all these other things and let these people do what they're good at and let patrol officers get back to what they're good at," said Officer Adam Ashley, Tulsa Police.

Officer Adam Ashley said the CRT helps free up resources.

“Instead of just going to the same call week after week, let's invest some time and some effort into it and see if we can actually help this person and then they're not calling 911 all the time," said Ashley.

Capt. Esmeyer said this different approach is building bridges with the community--especially with people needing help.

“They just open up to you and they tend to gravitate toward you," said Esmeyer.

Mayor Bynum said the program is expanding through the summer.

“These teams that we've developed I just think are a great innovation that really reflects breaking down of barriers that we have between our departments here at the city," said Bynum.

Starting at July 31st, the team will work 4, 10 hour shift each week to see how effective the program can be.

The crisis response team is one of 77 recommendations handed down by the city's community policing task force.

More the City of Tulsa's dashboards to track progress: click here.