New Orleans testing alternative dispatch for mental crisis 911 calls

Dispatchers now have the option to connect the call to a mental health counselor

By Suzie Ziegler 

NEW ORLEANS — Dispatchers in New Orleans now have the option to loop a mental health counselor onto a 911 call. According to 4WWL, it’s part of a pilot program designed to better help callers who are experiencing a mental health crisis. 

“The concept is simple,” New Orleans Health Director Dr. Jennifer Avegno told reporters. “When your house is on fire, you call 911 and get the fire department. When there is a violent incident, you get our fine New Orleans Police Department. If you’re having a heart attack, you want EMS. What we don’t have, and where the emergency system falls apart, is when it’s an emergency outside those specific types.” 

Now, dispatchers can bring a city human services employee onto the call to help figure out the best response. Last week, 38 calls to 911 were redirected to a mental health counselor, according to 4WWL. 

City leaders hope the program will allow police to renew their focus on stopping violent crime. However, Chief Shaun Ferguson says officers will still be trained in crisis intervention. 

“We remain committed to this training,” Ferguson told 4WWL. “We are excited. We will continue to work with our public safety partners.”

NEXT: DC launches pilot program shifting some mental health calls away from police

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