- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 18, 2021

The District is launching a pilot program under which 911 operators will send unarmed teams of behavioral health clinicians and peers instead of police to certain mental health crisis calls. 

The six-month pilot begins in June and is one of the 90 recommendations made by the city’s police reform commission last month.

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said Tuesday in a statement that the program is aimed at “making sure we get Washingtonians the help they need when they call us.”

“This program builds on all our efforts to make sure we are providing residents the right care at the right time,” Miss Bowser said. “The sooner we can identify what a person needs - whether that is an ambulance, a doctor’s appointment, or in this case, a visit from a behavioral health expert, the sooner we can help them.”

The city’s 911 dispatchers received 23,394 calls for service last week, according to the Office of Unified Communications (OUC).

The OUC is in the process of training operators, identifying which calls should be handled by mental health experts, assessing the potential volume of calls and reviewing past incident outcomes.

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