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Butte Co. & Chico PD partner to address mental health & policing

Behavioral Health counselors will make up a 2-person "Mobile Crisis Unit" to assist Chico PD when a call comes in involving a person with mental health issues.

Posted: Feb 5, 2018 5:14 PM

"When I started here as chief two and a half years ago, I noticed an increase in calls for service to mentally ill subjects .. and having that dynamic in mind, I knew we had to look at how we were responding," said O'Brien.

Crisis intervention training has played a big role, and these days, Chico Police rely on it nearly every single day.

"It could be someone with depression, suicidal, a medication they're not taking" said O'Brien.

But then, an unforgettable tragedy last March shed even more light on the problem.

"I called them for help, now I don't have son" said David Phillips, last year.

Chico police officers shot and killed 25 year Desmond Phillips, who was spiraling dangerously in a mental health crisis.

The shooting was found to be justified by the district attorney, but it spurred community members to call for a better way to deal with mental health - and it looks like they're going to get it.

Butte Count Behavioral Help is stepping in to assist, with a small Mobile Crisis Team.

"This will help us allow for help and assistance for our PD officers - they an have a mental health specialist to join them on the calls and actually figure out what's going on instead of using extra police resources to deal with the issue," said Chico City Councilman Andrew Coolidge.

"The idea is to take those councilors, put them in a police vehicle, with police radios, and when we have an incident that requires their expertise, we can call them with the police radio," said O'Brien.

While the funding comes from the behavioral health department, the two counselors will be driving around in an unmarked police car and can be dispatched at any time to a mental health emergency.

"Our target team may be out on a call with a subject that just may need some mental health counseling - it doesn't have to rise to the level of crisis for them to respond," said O'Brien.

And when there is a real, dangerous crisis?

"If we have an incident … we have to have control of the situation, we're not going put a counselor in a situation that puts them at risk. but, we can bring in in a tactical way to allow their expertise to be inserted in a way that will resolve the situation in the most peaceful way possible," said O'Brien.

City council is set to confirm or make a final decision on the memorandum of understanding at Tuesday night's meeting.

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