Tampa police, crisis center announce new program to address mental health crises

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Tampa dispatcher at Tampa Police Dispatch // Chris Young 4/15/24

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The week of April 15th is National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week.  Tampa Police Department and the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay’s new program will have certain 911 calls answered by crisis intervention specialists.

The program aims to reduce officer dispatched calls relating to people undergoing a behavioral health crisis. Tampa Police Department plans to have crisis intervention specialists at their dispatch center to handle calls regarding these crises.

Clara Reynolds is the President and CEO of the Crisis Center Tampa Bay.

“If somebody identifies that they’re in crisis, but they don’t have a weapon, it’s not a domestic violence situation, there’s no substance use involved, those are the types of calls that we are looking to be able to take on our end.”

After being transferred by a 911 dispatcher, an intervention specialist will then talk with the caller. They’ll work to deescalate the caller, and help connect them to community resources.

Calvin Johnson is the deputy chief of the Tampa Police Department.

“We see things on the news to where, officer-involved shooting, then we find out the person had mental health issues, then we didn’t know – okay that’s after the fact. So that’s been going on for so long, really across the nation in law enforcement agencies, to where, we know there’s a better way to handle these calls.”

Johnson anticipates a June or July start date for the program, pending hiring staff.

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