Managing Mental Health Calls For Service: An Evaluability Assessment of Co-Located Behavioral Health Specialists within a Public Safety Call Center

Michael Goodier

Advisor: Cynthia Lum, PhD, Department of Criminology, Law and Society

Committee Members: Christopher Koper, Sue-Ming Yang, Rylan Simpson

Online Location, #Online
July 09, 2024, 01:00 PM to 03:00 PM


Public support for reducing the role of the police in situations involving persons with mental illness (PMI) has gained significant momentum in recent years. As a result, many jurisdictions have introduced initiatives that prioritize connecting PMIs with the type of resources best equipped to support them. One idea is the co-location of behavioral health specialists in the 911 call center setting, where they can be on hand for calls that involve PMI. This study uses a multi-method approach using original field research conducted inside one of the largest public safety communications hubs in the United States to determine the feasibility and practicality of embedding behavioral health specialists within the call center setting. Using data gathered through (1) systematic observations of a sample of archived mental health-related calls for service, (2) an agency-wide survey, and (3) focus groups, this study gauges the extent to which the intended reform is suited to addressing different types of mental health-related calls for service and considers possible benefits and challenges to its implementation.