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Politics

Louisville’s new 911 call deflection program moves ahead

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Breya Jones
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A new program aimed at diverting some 911 calls away from a police response and to a mobile crisis response team is closer to becoming reality.

In February, Louisville Metro Council approved funding for research into non-police response models across the country.

The University of Louisville’s Commonwealth Institute of Kentucky and Spalding University worked to research and develop the program’s model.

“Based on this work, we recommend a multilayer model for Louisville to include public and private partners to operate synchronously as a system connecting people in crisis to the resources they need to feel and be safe,” said Susan Buchino, the assistant director of Commonwealth Institute of Kentucky at U of L, at a press conference Wednesday.

Now using part of the $5 million Metro Council approved to go toward public safety projects in the most recent budget, the implementation of the program is underway.

The pilot program will only operate out of the Louisville Metro Police Department’s fourth division and respond to calls the police’s critical response team would normally handle.

The program includes a behavioral health hub that will operate within the MetroSafe 911 call center downtown, where dispatchers will be able to assess whether a police response is needed. Then a newly created mobile response team can be sent to crises to help de-escalate situations and provide resources.

The crisis response team will come from a partnership with Seven Counties Services.

“We want some people with lived experience, but we also want a blend of people with bachelor’s level in psychology, social work or human services,” said David Weathersby, chief operating officer for Seven Counties Services. “Supervising these teams will be master’s level type workers.”

Weathersby went on to explain that this team will be connected to on-call clinicians that could further help with responding.

He said that 12 job postings for the mobile response team will be open by the end of October.

Another piece of the program is the opening of a 24-hour “community respite center” which would serve as a safe place for people who need help beyond the services the mobile response could offer.

Louisville did have a similar space called “The Living Room” which was a 24-hour adult crisis center. It closed after budget cuts in 2019.

While a building has not yet been secured for the respite center, Weathersby said Seven Counties has temporarily offered up some of their space.

Buchino said the program is expected to be fully operational by December 1. There are plans to expand into more of the city by the next Metro Council Budget session in spring of 2022.

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