Grand Rapids pilots program to use mental health providers alongside police officers

Jul 23, 2020

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 Over the last few weeks, tensions over the Grand Rapids Police Department budget have escalated between some community organizers and a number of city commissioners--- many who are arguing--that the GRPD’s budget needs to be cut, and the funds reallocated to community enrichment programs. And City Manager Mark Washington says, he agrees—and wants to shift the traditional model of response by law enforcement. 

“They cannot be everything to all people. So the more we can identify the specific issues where there are mental or behavioral health issues and equip either the officers in training or equip them with the right support people around them…the better it is for the public and the officers.” 

Instead of the Grand Rapids Police Department sending only a police officer to certain calls, Washington says depending on the call, the police department will assess whether it would also be helpful to send a mental health professional.  

“Either be there on the scene with officers as they arrive or even be the initial response in some cases that are low priority calls and that are non-violent.” 

Some of these situations include overdoses, mental health crises, panhandling and neighborhood disputes. 

The details of the partnership are still in development the Chief of Police Eric Payne hopes to announce more formal plans on August 11 during the City Commission Committee of the Whole meeting.