news With state funding, Burlington is nearing the launch of a mental health crisis response team

Burlington is nearing the launch of a new crisis response team run by the Howard Center. Photo credit: Patrick Crowley/VTDigger

With guaranteed state grants, Burlington is nearing the deployment of a crisis response team to help with mental health emergencies this year.

Mayor Milo Weinberger announced to the City Council on Monday night that a $667,252 grant from the Vermont Department of Mental Health will be paid to the city over two years, roughly half the cost of the city’s new crisis response team. bottom. Howard Center.

The new team is a “medically enhanced crisis response team,” said Jackie Corbery, a consultant who works with the city on implementing the program. Corbally said he is working with the Howard Center to sign a contract and determine a target date for the team’s rollout, expected later this year. Corbally told city council on Monday that the city was informed of the state grant last week.

Beth Holden, Howard Center Chief Client Service Officer, said in an email: ”

Weinberger said on Monday that the team would need seven staff members and the hiring process “could be lengthy.” He added that the city is looking for ways to get the team started as soon as possible using existing resources and staff.

“No one wants this sooner than the people it helps,” Corbery said in an update to the council. “So we understand that time is of the essence.”

City Councilman Joe McGee (P-Ward 2) is “cautiously optimistic” about the crisis team and is happy the city has brought in someone to help implement it. “It’s fair to say the program was going nowhere before Corbery joined,” said Magee.

Mental health calls are on the rise in Burlington. He received 1,234 mental health calls in 2022, a 29% increase from 2021, according to data provided by the Burlington Police Department.

The Crisis Team is often compared to a program called Crisis Assistance Helping Out on the Streets (CAHOOTS) that started in Eugene, Oregon. Dispatched through a 911 emergency call center, the team pairs Social He workers with medical responders to respond to reports of mental health crises. Divert calls that would otherwise have been handled by police or ambulance teams.

Alison Cromp, deputy commissioner of the Vermont Department of Mental Health, said the addition of medical personnel is a key difference for such a team.

“The people on the other side of that intervention often don’t have just one need, so this is new, different, and impactful,” Krompf said. He added that he is looking forward to seeing the Burlington program run because it can provide care options for people other than police involvement or hospital emergency departments.

“We hear from people that they really want options that meet their needs without having to go through the emergency department or inpatient hospital route,” Krompf said. There will still be others who need the emergency department, she said. Their wait time is extraordinary as there are people there who don’t need to be there. ”

Currently, the city employs community service liaisons, social workers, and community service officers, unarmed police officers who work in police departments and respond to many mental health calls. We have a street outreach team that works closely with our first responders and a first call crisis line.

In a request for proposals for a new crisis response team sent out last March, the city said it was looking to expand its “non-coercive crisis response.”

“But even with a community-centric model, the demands of Burlington residents exceed the current capacity of the social services network,” reads the background to the project included in the city’s demands.

The city said it is seeking qualified mental health clinicians and medical professionals who will be either nurses or emergency medical technicians. The city said the team would prefer normal working hours of 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday, but would need his staff on call after hours.

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