September 9, 2022

City leaders propose $2M for mental health response team in 2023 budget

Director of the Office of Public Health and Safety Lauren Rodriguez announces the budget proposal at the Assessment and Intervention Center.  - Sydney Dauphinais/WFYI

Director of the Office of Public Health and Safety Lauren Rodriguez announces the budget proposal at the Assessment and Intervention Center.

Sydney Dauphinais/WFYI

Indianapolis city officials plan to include more mental health response resources in the 2023 city-county operating budget.

Mayor Joe Hogsett joined representatives from the Office of Public Health and Safety, as well as Faith in Indiana, to announce the plans.

Hogsett said the office is budgeting $2 million for a clinician-led mental health response team.

“Now this would be a non law enforcement response, engaging with residents in their time of need to reduce unnecessary entanglement with the criminal justice system,” Hogsett said.

The pilot program would be an alternative to calling the police when someone is having a mental health crisis.  Indianapolis has a Mobile Crisis Assistance Team, or MCAT,  that responds to mental health calls, but it isn’t available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The proposed crisis response team would operate 24-hours a day.

Calls for the creation of a clinician-led crisis response team increased following the death of Herman Whitfield III on April 25. The 39-year old died in police custody while suffering an apparent mental health crisis. The coroner later ruled Whitfield's death a homicide and his family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the city and the police officers involved.

Josh Riddick, an organizer with Faith in Indiana, said they've spoken with over 800 predominantly Black residents in Marion County for input on the project. He said the community has made it clear they are in need of a non-law enforcement response to public safety. Whitfield's death made the need for a mental health team especially clear. 

"This situation certainly renewed an already existing fire," Riddick said. "They're not the only family in our base who have lost a loved one to police violence."

Part of the money in the proposal would also go towards additional mental health training for 9-1-1 dispatchers.

City officials made it clear that many of the details of the pilot program are yet to be confirmed.

If the budget is approved in October, it is expected to go into effect early next year.

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