REDDING, Calif.- The Redding Police Department and Shasta County Health and Human Services have teamed up to create the Crisis Intervention Response Team (CIRT).
This team of two officers and one mental health professional aim to help people going through a mental health crisis by assisting them in finding help and resources.
The CIRT began operating last Monday and has already worked on 24 calls to 911, including two follow-up calls.
Most of these calls would otherwise be dealt with by a police officer, but now they are being dealt with by mental health professionals like mental health clinician Nichole Brandon.
"People are calling 911 more than they should be because of the mental health piece, and they get tagged that they need some type of attention or help," Brandon said. "And so, then we show up and we investigate and get to the bottom of it and we try to figure out what kind of treatment they need and how we can help that person get connected to the service they need."
The team has also gone into homeless camps twice to recommend mental health services to those who need it and plans to do more soon.
Members of the plain-clothed team say they take a less intimidating approach to these calls than an officer alone might, helping in situations officers aren't explicitly trained for.
Members say the goal is to help, not incarcerate.
"The goal of the program is to not take people to jail when they’re threatening or having you know mental health issues, and of course not taking them to the ER all the time as well," Brandon said. "So, we’re trying to find a happy medium and get them connected to whoever is providing them their mental health treatment."
Paige Greene, the Adult Services Director at Shasta County Health and Human Services, told Action News Now that the officers on the CIRT team enthusiastically volunteered to join.
Redding police officers Devin Ketel and Teffy Snyder also went through the same training Brandon went through before joining the team.
Brandon told Action News Now that the CIRT has already helped people avoid hospitalization, with one person voluntarily entering the Crisis Residential Unit at Shasta County Health and Human Services.
The unit is an alternative to so-called 51-50 calls where patients are hospitalized for up to 72 hours.
The CIRT team isn't the first program of its kind, even in the Redding area.
Hill County's Mobile Crisis Outreach Team (MCOT) does a similar service to help people during a mental health crisis, except that the CIRT answers 911 calls.
While the CIRT only services Redding right now, Greene said she hopes the team will grow to service the rest of Shasta County.
"This mobile crisis team as we continue to grow will be going into other outlying areas, probably not as far as Burney just because of the time, but to Anderson, to Cottonwood, to Shasta Lake, to really be able to go out into those outlying areas," Greene says.
At the moment, the CIRT only works five days a week.
Timothy Renault, Sargent for the Redding Police Department Neighborhood Police Unit, told Action News Now that he hopes they can add a second full-time CIRT team in the future to better assist people in Shasta County.