With mental health calls on the rise, Providence seeks to better help those in crisis

PROVIDENCE, RI (WPRI) – The city of Providence is working to better handle calls related to mental health emergencies.

On Thursday, city guides announced they were working with the Providence Center, Family Service of Rhode Island, and other community members to search for a Request for quotation earlier this year.

Mayor Jorge Elorza says the number of calls for mental illness in the city increased by 92% from 2018 to last year, to which police officers or firefighters often responded.

“The design of this behavioral health crisis response program will ensure that these service calls are shifted away from traditional public safety resources so that trained professionals respond to these incidents where individuals need a helping hand, not handcuffs, and produce better outcomes,” said Elorza .

The mayor’s office said the call for proposals had the following objectives in mind for the program:

  • Ensure behavioral health and / or social services issues with links to the Providence Public Safety Department are adequately addressed by behavioral medicine and / or social service providers.
  • Reduce the involvement of the judiciary on behavioral health and social services issues; and
  • Reduce the chance of recurring problems and get better physical and behavioral health outcomes for the people of Providence.

The city said it received five offers and selected the offer from Providence Center and its long-term partner, Family Service of Rhode Island.

“Our decades of experience in providing evidence-based and immediate crisis response for the most vulnerable children and families in our state puts us in a unique position to work with The Providence Center,” said Sarah Kelly-Palmer, RI Vice President’s Family Service. “This will be a full-scale effort to provide informed recommendations that meet the changing needs of our community, create justice, and promote better outcomes for the citizens of Providence.”

The program is funded in part with $ 600,000 in the City budget.

The collaboration with the Rhode Island Providence Center and Family Service is expected to close in November with a final set of recommendations in a final report.

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