Tulsa, OK, USA, Sept, 2020 -- How to handle a mental health crisis in Tulsa is evolving through a joint effort between the Tulsa Police Department and Family and Children Services' "COPES " team.
If you called 911 in a mental health crisis, you used to get a first responder, but now you could talk to a licensed mental health professional thanks to the new program.
Tulsa's 911 call center can now direct mental health calls to the help they need, according to COPES Clinical Supervisor, Leigha Wooley.
"When people are in crisis, they dial 911," Wooley said.
Wooley said those calls often have a mental health component and this allows first responders to stay focused on emergencies.
"I would say that TPD does wonderful in their mental health response," Wooley said, "But this does give them the ability to do what they're better trained and it does give our community members the ability to meet and talk with licensed mental health professionals if that's what they're needing."
Wooley's COPES team already had its own crisis line, but now they can connect those who call 911 with their services.
"A crisis isn't necessarily just one day," Wooley said, "And if it's a mental health crisis you're probably needing more support and more services maybe that's more resources maybe that's meeting with a therapist."
Wooley's team noticed people using their COVID emotional support line recently.
"People in our community are hurting in different ways," Wooley said.
Zack Stoycoff, executive director of the Healthy Minds Policy Initiative, looks at data and research to see the impact of mental health issues have on communities.
"What COVID does is it brings mental health issues to the forefront of the conversation because we all are experiencing mental health issues," Stoycoff said, "We're all experiencing anxiety. The data shows that 40 percent of Americans and 40 percent of Oklahomans are experiencing diagnosable depression and anxiety."
The good news is, the partnership between COPES and TPD is based on a model in Houston that Wooley said has been working.
"They've seen great success," Wooley said.
Not only success getting people the help they need, but it saved money for the city and resources for first responders.
For now, COPES has mental health professionals two days a week at the call center, but they hope to expand that.
However, COPES does have a 24-hour line at 918-744-4800.
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
Published: Tuesday, September 29, 2020
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