Data from City’s Alternative Response Pilot Program Shows its Potential
Data from a six-week pilot program focused on providing more accurate emergency-response experiences citywide highlights the need for more alternative responses in emergency situations that do not require police and fire forces.
The first two weeks of the pilot program, which ran from June 7 to July 2, were used to develop policies and hold training for a triage pod in the 911 Emergency Call Center. The final four weeks saw the pod begin operation, where a team consisting of a social worker, emergency communications dispatcher and paramedic managed live calls, collected data and improved its procedures.
According to data provided by the City of Columbus, there was a 62% decrease in the number of calls requiring a law enforcement response during the pilot.
37.5% of the calls received were mental health crisis incidents, 32.1% of calls were suicide attempt incidents and 16.1% of the calls were for welfare checks.
Meanwhile, 5.4% of calls were for disturbances and 5.4% were for domestic disputes. A much smaller percentage of calls were categorized generally as requests for information or assistance as well as incidents specifically reporting a person with a knife.
Most of the incidents were resolved by the pilot or referred to a community provider, while a slightly lower amount of incidents required police units to be dispatched immediately. Other incidents required EMS units, the Department of Public Safety’s Rapid Response Emergency Addiction Crisis Team or Special Program Assessing Resource Connectivity Team units.
“A lot of those runs or calls traditionally require two officers to go or maybe two officers in a medic unit,” said Commander Dennis Jeffrey of the Columbus Division of Police. “I think it shows a pretty good proof of concept that this can work. And then we can free up a lot of resources.”
Jeffrey said there was a lot of uncertainty coming from officers, as the division is used to sending officers on these calls.
“From the police side…traditionally someone would call 911, and we automatically would send officers,” he said. “[It’s] kind of a cultural shift. The officers and supervisors that I’ve spoke with I think are optimistic. It’s still a new concept so I think there’s a little bit of a wait and see, if you will.”
Jeffrey said the division hopes to expand hours for the alternative response program in the next month or so, expanding hours from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. to 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
During the pilot, public safety units and community providers conducted follow-up visits with 11 individual callers.
Jeffrey said the division is excited about the future of the program, including more opportunities for follow-up.
“Further down the road we’re gonna have developed some secondary response units [to] actually go out maybe the next day or even the day off to see what else we can do for that individual,” he said.