LAPD Launches ‘Alternatives To Dispatch’ Program To Respond To Mental Health Calls

The LAPD responds to thousands of mental health calls every year, but advocates say many don’t need an armed response, they need a mental health professional.

LAPD Launches ‘Alternatives To Dispatch’ Program To Respond To Mental Health Calls

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – The Los Angeles Police Department has launched a new pilot program which dispatches a sworn officer and a Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health clinician to certain mental health calls as part of a series of efforts to remove law enforcement from nonviolent and non-criminal situations.

Assistant Chief Horace Frank announced the Monday launch of the “Alternatives to Dispatch” project at Thursday’s meeting of the Los Angeles Police Commission.

These actions follow the demonstrations over the summer calling for a re-imagining of public safety sparked by the death of George Floyd.

The LAPD responds to thousands of mental health calls every year, but advocates say many don’t need an armed response, they need a mental health professional.

Now, a clinician will be dispatched right away to nonviolent calls with a sworn officer.

The department also launched a one=year pilot program with Didi Hirsch’s Suicide Prevention Center. Trained professionals will take transferred calls from the LAPD’s 911 Dispatch Center between noon and 8 p.m.

Didi Hirsch’s CEO Dr. Jonathan Goldfinger says they expect to take 28 thousand calls away from the LAPD a year related to suicide or emotional distress — saving the city about $14 million.

“We have about 96 percent of people who call us from any of the hotlines that we field, we’re able to deescalate the risk so that we never have to deploy anyone,” said Goldfinger.

LAPD Chief Michel Moore says in just the last three weeks, there’s been about 91 instances where mental health professionals have handled a call rather than a police officer.