GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The Grand Rapids Police Department and Network180 are working together to tackle mental health and substance use problems within the community.
Their co-response team program, first established in July 2022, pairs a care professional from Network180, which serves as Kent County’s mental health authority, with an officer to respond to calls involving mental health and substance use. The goal is to get support to people who need it and at the same time free up police and emergency medical services from responding to non-emergency situations.
“We realized that the Grand Rapids Police Department receives calls and that sometimes as much as 30% of those calls can relate to mental health and substance use issues,” Kenny Garvin, associated director of community-based crisis services at Network180 said.
The team has responded to over 1,500 calls since it launched. Between July 5, 2022, and July 5, 2023, it has helped keep over 100 people out of jail, diverted 362 people from hospital emergency rooms and diverted 524 people from EMS for non-medical emergencies, according to Garvin.
HOW THE TEAM WORKS
The co-response team has four members: three GRPD officers and one Network180 clinician.
That clinician, Krissy Lung, has nearly 20 years of clinical experience and has worked to foster relationships in the community she serves, according to Network180. Being the only civilian on the team, GRPD takes precautions to make sure the scene is clear and that Lung wears protective gear when going to a call.
“Safety is No. 1, so I do have to wear a bulletproof vest and the officer is in charge of the situation, so I really don’t get involved if it’s unsafe or not secure,” Lung said. “I only come in when everything is safe and secure.”
Lung also helps police to be prepared by participating in GRPD’s crisis training program.
“Officers are starting to recognize that when we go to these calls, we can provide other options,” GRPD Sgt. Daryl Howard, who works with Lung, said.
Each day, Lung and an assigned GRPD officer start by looking at notes from calls that came in overnight. They check to see if there were any mental health or substance use situations and follow up accordingly. They also look to see if there are any mental health pick-up orders they need to respond to. From there, they start taking calls from GRPD and EMS.
The team generally takes between six to 12 calls daily. Co-response can check a person’s background to determine the best service to provide them, and if needed, where to take them for additional help. They may get in contact with a social worker already assisting a person and collaborate to determine what to do next.
For calls involving substance use problems, the team has several treatment options.
“We have a recovery coach who can reach out to meet them and talk to them about different treatment options and outpatient options within the community,” Lung said. “We work with medication-assisted treatment, we have detox, we have residential, so there is a lot of treatment options within the community.”
HOW THE TEAM STARTED AND WHAT’S NEXT
The co-response team was born out of the Network180 mobile crisis team. When the mobile crisis team, which originally was made for children, expanded to serve adults in August 2020, officials noticed they were getting eight to 10 calls monthly from GRPD when it was determined that mental health or substance use was involved.
City Manager Mark Washington reached out to Network180 in June 2021 and spoke to executive director Bill Ward and chief clinical officer Kristin Spikermin, brainstorming to see if it was possible to launch a more formal partnership could allow social workers to work more closely with police.
“I envisioned the co-response approach back in the summer of 2020 as part of our City’s ongoing efforts to more proactively and effectively aid individuals in the community and improve public safety outcomes for all,” Washington said in a statement. “I am thankful for the partnership we’ve forged with Network180 and the impressive results that the Co-response Team has delivered along with our Police Department.”
Data provided by the city shows that $700,000 was sent to the co-response team for the last fiscal year and a little less than $720,000 for the current fiscal year.
An additional team was recently added to the co-response program and there are plans to add more.
“We are working with Network 180 to get more social workers on board and providing crisis intervention training to more officers so we can expand the coverage hours this holistic approach is available,” GRPD Chief Eric Winstrom said in a statement. “I am very impressed with the impact these teams have made and am appreciative of the partnership with Network 180 and the broad support these efforts have received.”