Mental health & law enforcement crisis co-response growing after initial success
The Crisis, Outreach, Response, and Engagement, or CORE, co-response program is growing as a result of successful partnership between Benton County Health Department and Corvallis Police Department.
In July 2021, the two agencies launched the CORE program, which pairs a qualified mental health professional and a crisis intervention-trained police officer to resolve mental health crisis calls to minimize incarceration or emergency room visits.
The program was created in response to a growing need for mental health services in Benton County. From 2018 to 2021, the Corvallis Police Department experienced a 58% increase in calls related to mental health services.
Building upon a national framework for law enforcement and behavioral health crisis co-response, CPD and Benton County Behavioral Health decided to pilot the crisis co-response program using existing staff members to measure the program’s success. Benton County also hopes to expand other programs, in addition to CORE, that combine mental health and community safety as part of the Justice System Improvement Plan (JSIP).
The CORE program’s pilot team members include Alyssa Giesbrecht from Benton County Behavioral Health and Officer Trevor Anderson of CPD. Giesbrecht has more than six years’ experience working in mental health, a master’s degree in counseling, and a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. Anderson’s work for CPD includes education and outreach as part of the community livability unit as well as teaching and coordinating mental health crisis intervention and response.
CORE’s mission is to provide trauma-informed care to those experiencing a mental health crisis while ensuring the safety of responders, the person in crisis, and the community. Geisbrecht wears a protective vest underneath her gray Benton County polo to distinguish her from law enforcement while also keeping her safe.
“We know that some folks experiencing mental health crisis may feel fearful of law enforcement, said Eric Bowling, Crisis Manager for Benton County Behavioral Health. “We want to help them feel safe and we want our staff to stay safe as well.”
With just two team members, CORE is not the primary responder to every call for service. Calls to CPD that involve a mental health aspect are assessed for review and response by the CORE team. The CORE team has the ability to spend more time on a call for service, specific to the individual. The team uses crisis intervention techniques to de-escalate people in crisis and can provide referrals, resources, and follow up care for support.
In the program’s first six months, the CORE team responded to 27% of mental health calls made to Corvallis police. From July to December 2021, the Corvallis Police Department responded to 777 calls with a mental health aspect. The CORE team reviewed 268 of these calls for opportunities to offer assistance. Of the 268 mental health calls reviewed, 55% were resolved at the scene with services or resources provided. Only 3% were taken to the hospital and 1% were arrested.
Following the success of the pilot in resolving mental health service calls to police while minimizing hospital visits or incarceration, the program is looking to grow. Corvallis Police Department hopes to route even more mental health calls to CORE for trauma-informed mental health interventions.