Freedom House Mobile Crisis Group Replacement 911

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Members of the Healing and Justice Center stand in front of Freedom House's mobile crisis response and free urgent care vehicle in Liberty City.

Members of the Healing and Justice Center stand in front of Freedom House’s mobile crisis response and free urgent care vehicle in Liberty City.

dvarela@miamiherald.com

Sometimes calling the police to deal with a mentally ill person in Miami-Dade doesn’t end with the person getting much-needed help, but with tragically lethal force.

We’ve seen the news stories. The next officer meets someone who is having a psychotic episode, possibly threatening himself, those around him, and the officer. Sometimes they are armed. As the incident escalated, the officer would often see no refuge, but follow the guide and drop the person off.

It’s an upsetting reality when police clash with mental illness, especially in black and Hispanic neighborhoods.

And it remains a problem even though local police departments, after the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police, have focused heavily on learning to de-escalate emotionally charged incidents with residents.

sing A grassroots game-changing pilot project was introduced in Liberty City, It was created by a coalition of Miami groups with a big and impressive goal to change how police confront low-income communities of blacks and blacks — and those with addicts and the mentally ill.

Why Liberty City first? “This community has been over-monitored, and we thought it was a great place to launch our pilot,” Dr. Armin Henderson, who practices internal medicine at the University of Miami Health System, told the editorial board. Henderson made headlines for the first time in 2020 When he led a medical team In testing homeless people for COVID-19. It was a commendable effort. It was in the news again when a Miami police sergeant was investigating illegal waterboarding The doctor was tied outside his home. Months later, the Miami Civil Investigative Committee determined that a law enforcement officer had violated the procedure.

Henderson says statistics from the Center for Treatment Advocacy show that if the police were called to deal with a person with a mental health crisis, that person would likely be shot and killed 16 times. This number, although he is seven years old, is not hard to believe.

Put simply, Alexis Piquero, a criminologist and chair of sociology at the University of Miami, told the Miami Herald that police officers are not “licensed health professionals.” he is right.

One way to reduce such deadly conflicts is to reduce interactions between police and residents in Liberty City. This is the kind of valuable project that we hope will develop and replicate across the county.

The idea is to divert calls from 911 Liberty City residents to the Freedom House Mobile Crisis Team truck – 1-866-SAFE MIA – when they encounter someone in the midst of a mental health emergency. Freedom House will send a therapist, conflict resolution specialist, and a doctor to the scene. As the program grows, they can add a social factor.

This changes the equation to helping, not punishment.

“It’s a way of not having every public health issue dealt with by the police,” Dream Defenders co-CEO Rachel Gilmer told the board. “It’s a new way of looking at what public safety can really mean.”

The program is a relatively new idea in Miami, although it has been tried in other cities, including Dallas, Texas, and Eugene, Oregon.

The program is funded by a $900,000 grant from the Dream Defenders Center for Healing and Justice Open Society Foundation, a coalition of organizations, including Dade County Street Response and Beyond the Bars and Circle of Brotherhood, that provide a range of services to free health clinics for youth programs.

In Miami, organizers are trying to spread the word about an alternative call to 911 by going to malls and amusement parks and introducing the concept to residents.

The coalition says it intentionally remains independent of the local police. “We don’t want them to have a say in what we do, but we do want them to see us as an asset,” Henderson said.

In fact, they are an asset. We also urge the Police and Freedom House to at least get to know each other, work together when necessary, and learn from and reinforce each other.

Neither side can work in a vacuum. They are certainly not at odds. We think they are, after all, on the same side.

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