Livonia close to adding social workers to police for suspects in mental health crisis

"Is the criminal justice system the place for people mental health crisis? I think we would all agree, the answer is generally no," said Livonia Police Chief Curtis Caid.

Livonia police want to add two social workers to its department. to bridge law enforcement, community outreach and those suffering from mental illness. The City Council voted to table the issue and has not yet given it the green light.

Livonia Police Chief Curtis Caid has seen the need first-hand with his officers being forced to handle 911 calls, often with people suffering from mental illness that can quickly spiral out of control.

Chief Caid and the mayor have been working for a year with Hegira Health in Livonia. City officials are looking to hire social workers trained in behavioral health to become embedded with the police force. The proposal was presented to the City Council Monday night.

"What it is going to give us is a chance to manage the demand of a crisis," said Mayor Maureen Miller Brosnan. "But to continue to manage the care."

Jamie White, the head of Hegira's Crisis Services helped come up with the program that she says is currently working in Lansing. 

She says officers would respond to the call and determine if they need assistance from a licensed social worker. They would be dispatched to the scene and use their training to de-escalate the situation.

"That could include a crisis assessment, linking them to an immediate psychiatric appointment, then also linking them with ongoing care and treatment so they don't have a behavioral issue in the future," said White.

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The pandemic has shined a light on substance abuse problems, homeless and mental illness which reportedly a Wayne State university study shows makes up a majority of inmates housed at Michigan county jails.

This program is expected to help bring those numbers down.

"We would like to see a decrease in repeat calls to 911, better utilization of resources in police departments, and ultimately improving access to care," White said.