CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Editor's Note: This story discusses suicide. Reader discretion is advised.
In 2019, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department launched a Community Policing Crisis Response Team. The team was created to respond to 911 calls that involve mental health issues, that aren't necessarily criminal matters.
"Police services include any host of things, not just answering a call that is regarding a crime. We're the helpers," CMPD Lt Joan Gallant said. "That crisis can be anything. It can be mental health, substance abuse, homelessness, situational."
Data from the National Alliance on Mental Illness says more than 1.4-million adults living in North Carolina have a mental health condition. For a quarter of those folks, their illness is considered to be serious.
"We wanted to respond to that need, making sure that we were connecting people to the right places so that they didn't have to be involved in the criminal justice system," Gallant said.
Typically, the crisis team will respond to a scene only after a patrol officer arrived to ensure the scene is safe. Gallant said it's been "absolutely a success."
"Having a unit like this helps everybody, both the police department and the community," Gallant said.
Gallant said the need is growing. And despite staffing shortages across industries, the crisis team is growing with it.
"We went from six teams to twelve teams at the end of 2021," Gallant said.
If you or someone you know is struggling with mental illness, and you're looking for help, call or text the suicide and crisis lifeline at 9-8-8. Call 9-1-1 if you or someone you know is in immediate danger.
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