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Mobile mental health crisis teams to hit the streets in Missoula

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Posted at 8:45 AM, Jul 21, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-21 14:33:39-04

MISSOULA — Calls to defund the police across the country mean spending resources in other ways, such as different ways to handle situations like a mental health crisis.

Law enforcement is not being defunded in Missoula and the city and county are working to bolster resources that include mental health help.

Law enforcement in Missoula is called upon to do just about everything nowadays but one thing they might be able to take off of their plate is responding to mental health crises.

City and county officials are developing a mobile mental health crisis team that can respond with better training and better tools for those kinds of events.

It's a ten-month pilot program to start but Missoula County Commissioner Josh Slotnick says that he would rather start trying to come up with a solution then sit aside and wait for something to happen.

"People involved in government get nervous that their mission is to not make a mistake and I believe our mission is to try and solve problems," he told MTN News.

"We are trying to do something that we have not yet done before so its not going to go perfectly but most importantly we will learn from it and then we will continue to improve," Slotnick added.

A $125,000 grant from the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services -- plus matching funds from the city and county -- helped get the program off the ground.

Officials hope the new program will reduce jail and emergency room visits allowing first responders to use their time more appropriately.

Current plans call for having the program up and running by September.

Slotnick also says this is a great example of the innovations the Missoula County Criminal Justice Coordinating Council has been coming up with.

Officials say research shows that every dollar spent on mobile crisis saves $5 to $7 elsewhere in the mental health and criminal justice systems.