Trained, non-police community workers can soon respond to low-level 911 calls and mental health calls in Antioch.
The council on Tuesday directed staff to move forward with a pilot program called the Antioch Care Team, or ACT, that could reduce law enforcement’s involvement with distressed residents when police presence is not necessary. Designed by the research and advocacy group, the Auckland Urban Strategies Council, the proposed pilot is similar to the pilot designed for Auckland and will cost an estimated $1.8 million and $2.2 million annually, depending on the nonprofit it runs.
David Harris of the Urban Strategies Board praised Antioch for moving forward with the reform measure, which the police department said it supports.
“Antioch is one of the few cities across the country that has begun looking at alternative responses and taking the lead in addressing this issue,” Harris said.
“Not every response assigned to 911 requires the appearance of someone with a badge and a gun,” he added. “Not only are the consequences unintended, and in many cases very catastrophic for the individuals involved, they are also ineffective and in many cases extremely stressful for the officers involved in the interaction.”
ACT’s proposed core team would look similar to the CAHOOTS model in Eugene, Oregon, a pilot program that agencies across the country have sought to replicate, according to the Urban Strategies Council report. Each CAHOOTS team includes a physician (nurse or emergency medicine technician) with a mental health crisis worker.
Calls for alternative non-police responses to community crises came to the fore after the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police in May 2020, an event that sparked a major protest movement and opened windows for reform and reinvention of policing systems and practices across the country.
Domestically, some deaths, including that of Angelo Quinto in Antioch in 2020 and Miles Hall in Walnut Creek in 2019 – following mental health crises and police interventions – have raised questions about the need for an alternative strategy to deal with such calls in a violent manner.
As part of police reform discussions in Antioch, last year the council reached out to city residents through focus groups, surveys and interviews to better understand their experiences with the 911 system and ideas for new strategies. In March, the council directed staff to begin work on creating a customized 24-hour health crisis response model.
It was a move that the Quinto family saluted and thanked the council and other supporters.
“I think this is an essential alternative to the police response, which could have saved my nephew’s life, and I think it could save other lives, especially as mental health needs in our communities continue to grow,” said Diana Collins Puente, Quinto’s aunt. .
Quinto’s stepfather, Robert Collins, also praised the efforts.
“We have joined (since Angelou’s death) with others who are constantly calling for non-political and culturally competent crisis response teams,” he said. “Over the years, many lives have been lost, as we heard tonight, before and after Angelou’s death, due to the lack of an adequate response model. …I believe it will be a valuable program to assist the people of Antioch, the police department, and the community at large.”
Resident Patricia Granados also approved the pilot program.
“It’s good to see that the civilian population is now implementing and providing these kinds of (mental health) programs because we’ve lost lives at the hands of the police department, and second, it’s very expensive,” said Granados, a veteran. .
From 2018 to 2020, the Antioch Police Department received approximately 90,000 emergency calls to the service annually. In 2020, 4,142 of the total calls were for either homelessness or mental health/drug related issues. Of these calls, 1,373 were classified as low-level calls that a response team like the one proposed could handle.
Although council members unanimously supported the proposal, Councilwoman Tamisha Torres Walker first questioned the price, wondering whether the city or the nonprofit would bear the brunt of the cost of operations.
The cost estimates for running the program are based on working with other similar programs, Harris said. However, that could change depending on whether the nonprofit that chooses the city to run the program already has medical staff, offices, equipment, or charitable connections that will help defray the costs.
There are also a number of financing opportunities emerging. (For example), the Senate recently passed Bill 803, which provides funding for similar types of pilot programs that will be available.”