Philadelphia: $13 million boosts for psychological well being disaster response

The city budget proposed by Mayor Kenney would increase the number of units available and help integrate into the police force.

Emma Lee / WHY

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Six months after West Philadelphia police killed Walter Wallace Jr. during a mental breakdown, Mayor Jim Kenney proposes adding $ 13 million to the city’s mobile rapid response centers.

The mayor’s spending plan for the next fiscal year, while maintaining the PPD budget, provides more money for programs that involve trained clinicians in police calls related to mental health crises.

Specifically, the administration allocated $ 5.2 million for a mobile triage unit to be managed from the executive director’s office. Another $ 7.2 million will help meet the cost of “mobile crisis units” deployed by the Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual Disability, the city’s premier mental health arm.

If passed by the city council, the DBHIDS budget would provide an additional $ 800,000 to fund its co-responder pilot program launched this month.

The therapist and social worker Nomi Teutsch was thrilled to hear that more funds are being made available for the mobile crisis response. She works in Wallace’s old neighborhood and said most of her clients at The Family Practice & Counseling Network are black.

After seeing what happened to Wallace last year, Teutsch advised her patients to call 911 only as a last resort.

“It is incredibly important that the mobile crisis receives an increase in funding,” said Teutsch. β€œThere are extremely long waiting times and some people report that a unit never comes. That won’t help in a crisis. So I would like to see at least four units in operation at all times. “

The new funding is possible because of the American rescue plan, which provided Philly with $ 1.4 billion in federal aid to fill the $ 450 million budget gap caused by the pandemic.

News of the funding of the mobile crisis comes two weeks after Billy Penn reported that Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw was slow to implement reform after Wallace was killed by officers outside his townhouse in October.

The department had only enrolled four officers for behavioral health training – and did not reach out to the mobile crisis response centers to find a possible partnership.

The Philadelphia Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual Disability Services is funding two mobile crisis response centers. There’s JFK Community Mental Health in North Philly and The Consortium in West Philly. You can do this by calling the city’s main crisis hotline at 215-685-6440 or 1-800-273-8255.

Consortium director John White said he had little confidence in Outlaw to officially involve his mental health department. It took officials six months to start a co-responder program, despite promising immediate action after Wallace’s death.

White, who learned on Wednesday that mobile crisis centers could receive the additional investment, had previously told Billy Penn that more city funding was essential for his program.

“We want to expand the range of services provided by mobile crisis teams and add at least one or possibly two additional mobile units,” he said. “Some of it depends on what happens in the city council, depending on their ability to fund it.”

From October through February, the Consortium received 361 calls from West Philadelphians in crisis. The staff was only involved in police work once – and there have been no arrests, injuries, and deaths, according to the nonprofit.

White recently added an additional mobile response team to the consortium’s fleet, spanning from two to three units from Schuylkill to the end of Cobbs Creek, City Line Avenue, to Philadelphia International Airport.

According to spokesman Omoiye Kinney, DBHIDS is using a MacArthur Foundation grant of $ 2.3 million to continue expanding and is looking for additional employees.

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