Valley city launches program to help mentally ill - wave3.com-Louisville News, Weather & Sports

Valley city launches program to help mentally ill

MESA, AZ (CBS5) -

Police confrontations with individuals suffering from mental illness is on the rise across the Valley and around the country.

As a result, the city of Mesa is taking a pro-active approach to address the problem.

Mesa has just launched a Prevention Action Line, devoted entirely to helping folks with behavioral health issues.

"What we're trying to do is provide something out there for the community to reach out to us," said Mesa Fire Capt. Kim hackbarth. "They can call and say 'I think my family is having an issue,' or they are not really sure what resources are out there. We want to address the problem before it escalates to become a major crisis where we all know what happens after that."

The 24-hour hotline is set up so  friends, co-workers and family members can get help and advice on how to treat someone showing signs of mental illness.

Travis Anderson, with the Crisis Response Network, is one of the dispatchers answering phone calls.

"A lot of people don't realize how much assistance is available out there," said Anderson. "I can direct them to a higher level of care or find a counselor to talk to."

In addition to providing resources over the phone, the Mesa Fire Department has set up a mobile community care unit that will only respond to mental health related calls.

Mesa Fire Capt. Will Lamond said that a mentally unstable person can sometimes be frightened by a police officer with a gun, so it often helps to have firefighters calm and access the situation first.

"We can be less intimidating, but still provide both medical and behavioral evaluation without the threat of police or legal issues following the patient," said Lamond. "Firefighters may seem a little nicer, a little softer side of a medical evaluation."

The Mesa's Prevention Action Line phone number is 480-644-5457.

The hotline is open 24-hours, seven days a week.

The pilot program is set to run for one month, but Mesa officials are discussing whether to keep the program going longer. 

Copyright 2014 CBS 5 (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

 

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