Bloomington Police Department launches innovative mental health rapid response pilot program
Published October 27, 2023
Many 911 calls about people suffering a mental health crisis result in a visit from a police officer and often an emergency room visit, but an innovative pilot program announced today by Bloomington Police Chief Booker T. Hodges will reduce those incidents by providing community members with immediate in-home therapy at no cost.
Last year, BPD responded to 1,115 calls related to a mental health crisis or suicide attempt/threat. So far this year, there have been 952 calls. In many cases, follow-up therapy sessions are not available for weeks after the initial contact with law enforcement and social workers. Without professional treatment and intervention, the potential for repeat incidents increases.
“Our core value here at the Bloomington Police Department is respect, and respect is demonstrated through our compassionate and honest service. I believe that it’s not very compassionate to allow someone who needs and wants help to go months without getting the help they need,” Chief Hodges said. “Our social workers encounter people who need immediate therapy. Unfortunately, that therapy is rarely available, and even when it is, the price is too much for many families. Our Rapid Response Mental Health pilot program looks to ensure those who need help are being served as soon as possible with compassion and respect.”
The first-in-Minnesota program will include two licensed marriage and family counselors who will be embedded within the Bloomington Police Department (BPD). The two therapists will supervise four students who are completing their clinical practice requirements.
These supervisors and students will be able to provide rapid response and individualized mental health services to community members who are referred by police, fire, school partners, or with the Hennepin County-embedded social workers. Students will have capacity for approximately 40 appointments a week. A client can see a provider for up to 10 weeks.
Individuals will receive services at no cost. Appointments will be available in-person at their home or another convenient location. School facilities and workplaces cannot be used as meeting locations.
The pilot program, set to begin in Dec. 2023, will cost $63,000 and be paid for with funds from the state’s opioid settlements and state Public Safety Aid funds.
BPD has found most calls regarding mental health issues also deal with substance use, specifically opioids. BPD has responded to 361 overdose calls since 2019, including 70 this year. There have been 47 fatal overdoses in the city the last five years.
“I am gratified to see hard-won opioid-settlement dollars put to such creative and effective use,” said Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison. “No amount of money will ever make up for the death and destruction the opioid companies caused in Bloomington and every community in our state, but my office has nonetheless worked hard to hold these companies accountable. I thank and applaud Chief Hodges, Bloomington police, and the City of Bloomington for this ground-breaking initiative. I call on every city, county, and community in Minnesota to act as creatively in putting their opioid-settlement dollars to use in serving people.”
The State of Minnesota, through the Attorney General’s Office, has so far recovered $568 million in settlements with opioid companies for the harms the companies have caused Minnesotans. Per an agreement with local governments that Attorney General Ellison’s office brokered, 75 percent of those dollars will go directly to all 87 Minnesota counties and 32 Minnesota cities with a population of more than 30,000, including Bloomington, which may use them for treatment, abatement, and prevention.
Public Safety Aid funding was approved by the legislature and signed into law by Governor Tim Walz earlier this year.
“By investing $300 million in local public safety across the state, we’re giving communities the resources they need to tackle their most important challenges. We know those challenges look different in every community,” said Governor Walz. “Whether it’s funding for additional police officers in Brainerd or supporting an innovative mental health program in Bloomington, I am proud to see these investments come to life across the state.”
Community resources for people experiencing a mental health or substance use crisis
In addition to the Mental Health Rapid Response pilot program, the Bloomington Public Health Division is working with stakeholders to address community opioid prevention, rapid response, and treatment needs. A list of community resources is available at blm.mn/opioids.
The 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline is available 24/7 for anyone in need of mental health crisis services. You can call or text 988 for support.