Alexandria sees early success pairing police, mental health professionals

 Alexandria sees early success pairing police, mental health professionals


One program that equips police with mental health professionals to better manage people in a mental crisis is seeking early success in Alexandria, Virginia.

One program that equips police with mental health professionals to better manage people in a mental crisis is seeking early success in Alexandria, Virginia, according to a report commissioned by city.

The Alexandria Co-Response Program, or ACORP, is a collaboration between the Alexandria Police Department and the Department of Community and Human Services. An ACORP team consists of an officer and an ethical health clinician.

The team responded to 145 calls between October 2021 and February 2022. More than half of the calls were for unusual behavior or threats of self -harm. At that time, the Alexandria Police Department detected 958 ethical health calls. Most behavioral health calls came while the co-response team was not on duty.

According to an initial evaluation compiled by the Omni Institute, calls handled by the ACORP team are more likely to be resolved on scene or transferred to other services. Overall, of calls that could lead to arrests, 71% were diverted to other ACORP services.

The report found that the ACORP team solved landscape problems without the need for other services 45% of the time. Over a five -month period, officers trained in crisis intervention solved cases 16% of the time at the scene. Untrained officers solve ethical health calls on the scene 27% of the time.

ACORP is also less likely to send people to the hospital involuntarily. Omni found that only 13% of the time was spent by the team. Meanwhile, CIT officers and untrained officers involuntarily took people 41% of the calls and 36% of the calls each.

CIT officials were able to voluntarily take people to hospital or shelter 22% of the time; Untrained officers have a higher voluntary admission rate of 25%. ACORP got 16% voluntary admission.

An infographic from the Omni Institute’s initial evaluation of ACORP calls. (Courtesy of Omni)

The report also provides ACORP success stories beyond the data.

On one call, a man in Alexandria committed suicide and was armed with a knife. Because he was armed, several units responded to ACORP.

During the de-escalation, the man said he did not trust the police and had bad experiences with them, but he would talk to the mental health professional alone.

Since the man was still threatening, the ACORP policeman remained in the room and slowly, another officer left and waited outside. The group managed to give him the weapon and voluntarily went to the hospital for further examination and treatment.

The report concludes that ACORP has seen early successes, particularly in better outcomes for people and in keeping them away from arrest, and better resource allocation. Omni recommends better training for call-takers to identify ethical health calls, and multiple teams to handle calls.

While ACORP is now comprised of only one police officer and one mental health clinician, the city’s new budget provides funding for two more teams.

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