PCSD dispatchers working to address mental health needs with new program

911 Crisis call center

TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) -A partnership between the Pima County Sheriff’s Department (PCSD) and Arizona Complete Health is revolutionizing the way certain 911 calls are handled.

The Sheriff’s Department is putting mental health first through its ‘Crisis Call Transfer’ program, which launched this week.

“Some people don’t know that that service exists sometimes, so they call 911 saying, ‘I need help’,” said Joanne Amstutz, a spokesperson for PCSD.

Callers identified as having a behavioral health need who are not in immediate danger; either criminal or medical, will be transferred to the Arizona Crisis Line.

“During times of COVID, people are feeling more isolated, they are feeling lonely,” said Julie Mack, a Suicide Prevention Specialist with Arizona Complete Health.

By triaging calls to specifically-trained professionals, the hope is to get people the help they need sooner.

“It kind of takes out that delayed time frame of having a deputy go out there to evaluate them first,” Amstutz said.

“Sometimes people feel intimidated by, maybe, officers in uniform,” said Mack. “The person who is working on the crisis line talks with the individual who is in crisis and determines whether or not the person needs to have a crisis mobile team come out to assist.”

The partnership also frees up deputies for other calls.

“It’s an average of about 50 calls a month that have the potential that could be transferred over to crisis professionals,” Amstutz said.

The initiative is impacting response times, while offering a lifeline.

“Having the conversation, I think, is the biggest step and the most productive thing you can do with someone who is struggling,” Mack said.

If you or someone you love needs help, you can call the crisis line directly at 1-866-495-6735. If you call 911 in Pima County, you will be transferred to professionals.

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