Starting next year in Anchorage, Alaska, a new team of mental health first responders will replace police for emergency calls for someone with a mental health issue. The Mobile Crisis Team is funded by a new local alcohol tax and the team is trained to be dispatched to situations police do not have adequate training to address.
According to Anchorage Assemblywoman Meg Zatel, the new initiative will also lessen the burden on the police force. Right now, those experiencing mental health crises are usually taken to jail or a psychiatric facility. The Mobile Crisis Team aims to offer the support needed to avoid these outcomes as well as reduce the instances of violence between police and residents.
The Anchorage Police Department has expressed support for the new program. In a statement, Deputy Chief Kenneth McCoy said, “This is an important step forward for our community in meeting the needs of those in crisis.”
Each Mobile Crisis Team will consist of a paramedic, a behavioral health clinician, and a unit commander. It is expected to divert 7,300 annual calls from the police. In addition to the $1.5 million in funding to The Mobile Crisis Team, the alcohol tax will also fund domestic violence prevention programs, prekindergarten education, child abuse prevention programs, substance misuse treatment programs, and shelter for the homeless.