IMPD planning to enhance behavioral health program

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INDIANAPOLIS – Before the Public Safety and Criminal Justice Committee on Wednesday night, Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department and Health and Hospital Corporation laid out its plans to enhance its behavioral health program.

An arrest is sometimes not the most appropriate response to a 911 call. Sometimes police believe the person needs to stay out of the criminal justice system.

“A lot of people see the police as there to arrest someone, take them to jail,” said officer David Kuchta-Drane. “The end goal is that we get them back to being productive in their lives.”

Officer Kuchta-Drane is a member of IMPD’s mobile crisis assistance team, or MCAT. When a beat officer needs help assisting someone in a mental health crisis, an officer and a clinician will respond.

MCAT was formed in 2017 and the program is in partnership with Health and Hospital Corporation, which operates Eskenazi Hospital. 96 percent of the time MCAT arrived on scene no arrest was made.

“Biggest need is probably medical services. we have a lot of people that have problems with getting their medications. maybe getting to the hospital,” said Kutcha-Drane.

During Wednesday’s committee meeting, HHC and IMPD announced their plans to add two MCAT teams. The southwest district is the only one without an MCAT team. They also plan to have trained mental health staff available to respond, provide, support, and potentially de-escalate individuals who may be experiencing mental health symptoms at the time of the initial 911 call. They have applied for a federal grant to cover the cost of personnel.

The Behavioral Health Unit (BHU) works alongside MCAT. They follow up with people if police bring them to the hospital. BHU teams work to find out if the person needs a variety of services such as food, links to jobs, or transportation.

So far this year, BHU teams have followed up with more than 2,700 immediate detentions. An immediate detention provides an officer the authority to apprehend and transport an individual with a mental illness.

“You are not going to be able to arrest your way out of that mental health crisis,” said detective Brad Hinshaw.

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