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One CT City Makes Emergency Mental-Health Calls a Priority

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Friday, May 14, 2021   

NEW LONDON, Conn. - A first-in-the-state pilot program could soon offer a different approach to how agencies in Connecticut respond to emergency calls for mental-health crises.

New London's Director of Human Services, Jeanne Milstein, said this initiative is one result of a citywide Public Safety Policy Review Committee that targeted mental health as a priority.

As many as three peer navigators could be added to the city's Crisis Response Team this fall. Milstein said the added support would improve outcomes of mental health calls, especially for frequent callers.

"It'd be like a warm handoff between the police, and maybe a crisis worker and a navigator," said Milstein. "And then, the navigator develops a personalized treatment plan that uses a person's existing support system."

She said the City Council still has to approve the $200,000 program in its budget, but lawmakers are supportive of the initiative. The New London Police Department says about 40% of calls it receives are mental-health-related.

Milstein noted this model duplicates New London CARES, another program that was launched to tackle the opioid crisis - and the city has seen positive results in its five-year run.

She said an emphasis of both programs is that the peer navigators have personal experience with the situations they're responding to.

"Having this handoff will be, I think, very, very successful," said Milstein. "Because by having someone who has lived experience, the individual can develop that trusting, caring and consistent relationship."

She says Gov. Ned Lamont has also shown interest in implementing similar programs statewide.

In the meantime, mental-health crisis hotlines can be reached anytime at 1-800-273-TALK, or by texting START to 741741.


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