Funding has been officially approved for a Mobile Crisis Response Team (CRT) in Lewis and Clark County.
Funding for the Mobile CRT comes from two grant sources totaling $470,000.
The Board of County Commissioners unanimously approved the funding on Thursday and praised the program.
“This is one big piece in all of the work that is being done in coordination, conjunction and partnership with law enforcement, with St. Peter’s Health, with the City of Helena and with Lewis and Clark County,” said Commissioner Jim McCormick.
Mobile CRT is part of an overarching strategy to improve the behavioral health care in the community.
The unit will allow for a behavioral health specialist to respond alongside law enforcement to assess individuals in crisis for mental health or substance abuse.
“They’ll be there with law enforcement to help the person in crisis de-escalate the situation, determine what’s really going on and determine what care is needed,” said Kari Parmer, St. Peter’s senior nursing director for inpatient nursing.
The Mobile Crisis Unit at St. Peter’s will have six members in order to be able to respond 24/7 at the request of dispatch.
County Commissioners and St. Peters both agree, mental health impacts everyone in the community whether they’re aware or not.
“Not all of us experience mental health or know people with mental health challenges, but even if you don’t it’s affecting you in some way,” explained Parmer. “It’s affecting our Emergency Department wait time, for you to be seen in the E.R. It’s affecting our capacity in our hospital. And it’s affecting our crime. Some people really aren’t criminals, they just have mental illness and it’s untreated.”
Parmer says individuals suffering from mental health challenges have been a burden on law enforcement, and is proud to be able to finally provide some support.
At a community discussion on policing this week, Helena Police Chief Steve Hagen said his officers have around 400 protective custodies a year.
The Mobile CRT will hopefully help many people find the resources and treatment they need without ending up in the hospital or in the jail.
“The actual event of taking someone to the hospital is traumatic to them and then you’re tying up an officer for 4 hours,” said Helena Police Chief Steve Hagen at a community discussion on policing this week. “So [the Mobile CRT] is a drop in the bucket, but it’s a very important first step.”
St. Peter’s are seeking applications for individuals interested in the position, with the goal of getting the team ready and in place in the next couple months.
“We really want the best of the best,” said Parmer. “This is hard work, but great work for our community.”