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LA Takes Step Toward Pilot Program To Take Police Out Of Some Mental Health Calls

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The L.A. City Council today unanimously agreed to move forward with setting up a pilot program that would take police out of some mental health crisis calls.

The council voted to direct staff to prepare requests for proposals from nonprofits that would run the program. It would involve sending out unarmed civilians who are trained to handle people going through a substance abuse or mental health crisis.

"Today is an opportunity for us as a city to make a giant first step in putting in place professional unarmed response," said Councilman Herb Wesson, who this past June helped introduce a motion that directed the LAPD, L.A. County Department of Mental Health and others to "develop an unarmed model of crisis response that would divert non-violent calls for service away from LAPD."

Council President Nury Martinez said the city has failed people who need help:

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"I just think that for way too long we’ve really relied on law enforcement to solve our social issues — to deal with mental health, to deal with homelessness — when clearly they’re not trained to do that."

The LAPD does have a special unit that pairs cops with social workers to handle mental health calls — but they can only deal with some of those calls.

In recent years, LAPD cops have shot at dozens of people perceived to have mental health issues.

The council is looking to model L.A.’s response after the nationally renowned Cahoots program in Eugene, Oregon, which sends out teams made up of a medic and a crisis worker.

If you need help for yourself or someone you know here are some resources:

If You Need Immediate Help

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If you or someone you know is in crisis and need immediate help, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or go here for online chat.
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