New Mexico Removes Police From Mental Health Calls

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Albuquerque, New Mexico 911 dispatchers now have an option beyond the police, with social workers and others in related fields patrolling the city and fielding calls pertaining to mental health, substance abuse or homelessness that otherwise would have been handled by an armed officer, reports the Washington Post. The new Community Safety Department leans heavily on its de-escalation training and emphasizes that it’s workers are not there to enforce the law or make arrests.

Reform advocates say it can make a substantial dent in the problem of police brutality: Of the roughly 1,000 people killed by the police each year, more than a quarter have been in the throes of a mental health crisis, according to a Washington Post database. Unlike many other cities, Albuquerque’s program is no tentative pilot: It’s a free-standing department, with a multimillion-dollar budget and ambitions to hire hundreds of responders, field tens of thousands of calls each year, and fundamentally reshape an emergency response system that hasn’t been altered this significantly since EMTs were added half a century ago.

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