INDIANAPOLIS — Indy's clinician-led community response team now operates 24/7.
When 911 operators receive a call for a mental health crisis in downtown Indianapolis, it can alert the city's clinician-led community response team.
The team started responding 24/7 to calls where the person isn't considered to be violent or armed on January 1.
"So far, the neighbors that we've encountered have either been unhoused, have some type of substance abuse or mental mental health concern," Director of Operations, Andrea Brown, said.
The program started as a pilot program last year using federal dollars after faith-leaders and community members pushed for a clinician-led mental health team that can respond to calls 24/7 versus the city's Mobile Crisis Assistance Team, which is part of IMPD.
"We need this. The community needs this," Clinican Lee Ivy said. "What if there was someone that didn't have to carry a badge? They didn't have to carry handcuffs on them just to bring resolution to a situation."
Now, the program is part of the city-county budget, and looking to expand to the east side.
Brown says the goal is to make people in a mental health emergency feel comfortable.
"We're educated and we know what we're doing. We know how to handle these calls," Brown said.
Brown wants the community to know that when they call 911 and request the clinician-led response team, there are professionals who will arrive to care for whoever is in need.
"It is so important to ensure that we are able to provide the crisis intervention and on-scene de-escalation that an individual might need during a mental health crisis," Deputy Director of Behavioral Health for OPHS, Julie Bingham, said.
The city says so far, teams have responded to more than 130 calls and are currently seeing an increase.
"I have seen a lot of hurt, pain and people that feel misunderstood or are seeking validation," Ivy said.
As the need for help and resources ramp up, Ivy has this message.
"I really want the communities at home to know that we're available, they don't have to navigate these hard situations on their own," he said. "There are people that would show up if they made the call, and we want to hear them out. We're not trying to put them in a jail, we're not trying to remove them from their children. The mission is to figure out what they need so they can be their best selves."
The clinicians have also moved from the basement of the City-County Building to a new location downtown.
"We wanted to provide an environment that was conducive to the work that we were doing. These calls are stressful, they're intense. And they're important and much needed," Brown said. "It's important for us to provide a space for our clinicians to feel like they can unwind and debrief and not be burnt out and be prepared for the next calls."
Last year, the city was looking to hire more trained professionals.
"It was important for Stepping Stones Therapy Center to be a part of this because this is what our vision and mission has been since we were founded in 2015. We want to provide equitable mental health services to everyone in the community," Brown said.