Brooklyn Center Considers Joining Mental Health Response Program
Brooklyn Center is considering joining a Hennepin County program providing mental health services during police calls.
Through the program, paramedics and social workers respond to mental health calls and other non-violent emergency situations.
Called the Alternative Responses Team, these social workers can respond to a scene with police officers, or can respond to a call independently.
Brooklyn Park and Hennepin County launched a program piloting the concept in March. The partnership was the first-of-its-kind in Minnesota.
The unit would respond to low-risk 911 calls like disturbances, intoxication, drug overdoses and welfare checks.
Through the program, the social workers would be employed by Hennepin County, but Brooklyn Center would pay their wages.
Mental Health Team Housed Out of Police Department
The cost for the program in the first year would be approximately $72,000, according to LaToya Turk, Brooklyn Center’s director of community prevention, health and safety.
While social workers would be housed out of the Brooklyn Center Police Department, they would be overseen by the city’s department of community prevention, health and safety.
“They would be responding to calls using the police radio,” Turk said. “There needs to be some sense of collaboration and teamwork built with those groups. And so having them completely separate doesn’t allow for the relationship building.”
Reggie Edwards, Brooklyn Center city manager, said one goal of the program is to alleviate staffing burdens for the police department.
“In the context of being short-staffed and having a lot to do, we don’t want to add to the supervision of police officers,” Edwards said. “We don’t want to add to the load. So we’re not trying to add on more work when we already have very challenged staff as far as workload is concerned.”
Brooklyn Center City Council Member Dan Jerzak said he supports the program. However, he questioned why the police wouldn’t oversee the program.
“Is the police department on board with this and what you’re proposing?” Jerzak asked.
“I’ve been meeting with the police department probably for the past six months on this,” Turk responded. “We’ve talked about it extensively. And I have not gotten any opposition on where the Alternative Response Team is housed.”
Hours of Operation for Brooklyn Center Mental Health Team
Hennepin County has proposed to operate the unit from 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., Mondays to Fridays.
According to Turk, police data shows the strongest demand for the unit later in the week and during evening hours.
She said the city is in ongoing discussions related to issues like hours of operation.
“I think to be productive and create the unit we’ll have to start out at the same time,” Turk said.
Previous Mental Health Response Planning
Brooklyn Center began considering its police response model in the wake of the fatal shooting of Daunte Wright.
The Brooklyn Center City Council passed a resolution in May 2021 to have unarmed civilians and mental health professionals respond to non-moving traffic violations and mental health-related calls-for-service.
Turk said that the city has considered contracting with other alternative-response providers.
“There was a huge gap in the financial responsibility for the city, as well as state and federal requirements for mental health response teams,” Turk said.
Edwards added that a single mental health response team is unlikely to address the full needs of the city.
“There may be an opportunity to pilot another model at the same time so we can actually see results of both,” Edwards said.