Medical and mental health professionals as well as community members will be more involved in responding to mental health crises in Boston under a pilot program announced by Mayor Kim Janey Thursday.
Starting immediately, teams of emergency medical technicians and mental health workers can be sent to 911 calls citywide for mental health crises that don't pose a safety risk, the city said.
Two other response methods will debut later: more standardized deployment of dedicated teams of police officers and mental health workers to mental health crises that pose a safety risk downtown and in Charlestown and Roxbury, to begin in September, as well as a response in which trained people with experience in the community, to be developed with the community this year.
"I am proud to launch a pilot program that reimagines how we respond to mental health calls," Janey said in a statement. "These pilot investments will connect residents and their families with the care they need as we bring more safety, justice, and healing to Boston neighborhoods."
She had announced the pilot program was under development in April, as part of a larger push for police reform in Boston to bring more accountability and transparency. Other investments announced at the time included expanding the police cadet program by 50%, adding "20 new diverse officers to the police force," and reviewing allegations against police officers for policies the department has "discontinued due to disparate impacts on officers of color," Janey said, noting the need to "reimagine how we respond to violence in our city."
Lsat year, more than 10,000 911 calls for mental health crises were made in Boston, according to the city, with Dorchester, Roxbury and the South End having the highest clal volumes, as well as higher overall call volumes.
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The mental health response pilot program will be funded using $1.75 from the city budget, the city said.
Boston police and mental health workers already respond to some calls together, but do so on a case-by-case basis. The city said the pilot program standardizes that process, with dispatchers automatically asking if those teams are free to address mental health calls with a safety risk. Those teams will also be dedicated to calls that have a likely mental health aspect, and will no longer be asked to respond to other calls.
Also Thursday, Janey addressed her comments likening vaccine passports to slavery and birtherism, saying she regretted using the analogies "because they took away from the important issue of ensuring that vaccine and public health policies are implemented with fairness and equity."