MISSOULA — We take a look at Missoula’s Mobile Support Team for this edition of Current Events with Martin Kidston, founding editor of the Missoula Current founding editor Martin Kidston.
“This week in city council -- the Mobile Support Team offered its first six months of data. And as a reminder, the city set this off six months ago on a trial basis. The program is about one year old now. So, the data released just this week covers those first six months and what they've learned thus far. I just want to read you some of the statistics that came out this week and they are rather interesting,” Kidston said.
“The Mobile Support Team responded to 537 calls over those first six months. Of those 537 calls, 293 clients were represented, so they're seeing them more than once. Some of the other data suggest that 44% of the calls were to public locations, while 30% of the calls went to private locations. Of those particular clients broke down deeper, 32% were housed and 40% were considered unhoused. There were 16 so-called "super users" of this program. Of the 537 calls, 103 represented those 16 individuals. A lot of repeat users in some of these areas,” Kidston continued.
“But the program did have some success in some ways. It diverted 169 emergency room visits and 13 trips to the jail. It's having some effects, some benefits there. Over the first six months, it's estimated the program saved the taxpayers $252,000 by reducing emergency room visits and time in jail. “
This program is designed to take the load off of police officers and other first responders and put it into the hands of people who might be better able to respond to mental health issues and things along those lines.
“Exactly. They’re trying to reduce the involvement of law enforcement and calls involving behavioral health. They dispatch these calls in a number of ways, but the end result is to arrive on scene with a licensed clinician, and EMT and law enforcement have a reduced role. That reduces the role of law enforcement and people who have a behavioral health crisis,” Kidston explained.
“So far it seems like it is working. They have some positive comments this week based on the data. They also offered suggestions moving forward. They want to grow the program and that will depend on funding. They want to add at least one new clinician, a partnership with the health center. They were a partner in this with the Missoula Fire Department. They want to add two new EMTs with the fire department, which they want to hire this year,” Kidston noted.
“They want to bring on a couple more positions and make some current positions full-time to bring that program whole. And they hope to operate this year from 8 am to midnight seven days a week. It has grown dramatically since it started, but that depends upon funding and what direction they choose to take moving forward,” Kidston concluded.