INDIANAPOLIS — Nearly every time an IMPD officer responded to a person in a mental health crisis, they did not arrest the person. As people nationwide call for a “defunding” of police, and some groups feel law enforcement should not respond to mental health calls, FOX59 wanted to take a closer look at the situation in Indy.
According to IMPD’s data, officers responding to mental health crisis calls did not make an arrest in 96.6% of calls since September 2. Of 444 calls, no arrests were made in 429 calls, a mobile crisis assistance officer did make an arrest in one case and a non-MCAT officer made arrests in 14 cases.
“I think it’s great,” MCAT Officer Justin Toussing said. “I think it’s awesome that district officers have another resource instead of taking people to jail because that’s not always the answer. We want to get to the root of these problems.”
MCAT officers respond when the city’s beat officers need help assisting someone in a mental health crisis. They help with people fighting substance abuse issues, mental health disorders, and suicide or self-harm attempts.
“What kind of treatment they’re in, where they might get treatment, medications they might be on,” Toussing explained. “A lot of times we kind of delve into their history, what’s going on. Maybe there’s been a recent tragedy, maybe there’s a stressor. Especially now with COVID.”
MCAT officers work each shift, Monday through Friday, alongside a licensed social worker or mental health counselor with Eskenazi. These teams can spend a much longer amount of time with a person in need.
“They can talk out their situation as well as scenarios or options that they have available to them,” MCAT Officer David Kuchta-Drane said. “It lets them know that they’re just not rushed being in a crisis and people actually care. We want to give them time that we can talk this out and resolve it.”
IMPD’s behavioral health unit also works alongside MCAT. They are the reactive team that checks in with people served by MCAT.
So far this year, they have made 2,848 follow up calls and sent 2,382 follow up emails.
“If someone is taken to the hospital by a police officer, they follow up and make sure that person gets connected to the most appropriate resources on the back end,” Sgt. Lance Dardeen explained.
Dardeen encouraged anyone who is having a mental health crisis and calls 911 to request a crisis intervention officer. In addition to Eskenazi, MCAT also works with organizations like Gleaners and the National Alliance of Mental Illness.