Committee Discusses Report Detailing Public Safety Response to Mental Health Situations

Council Committee Worksession. 3/17/2021.

During a joint committee meeting Wednesday, Montgomery County councilmembers and police officials discussed a recent Office of Legislative Oversight (OLO) report analyzing the county’s public safety response to mental health situations.

The OLO works to provide independent findings and recommendations to the council and made two recommendations in the report: “request that the Executive discuss with Maryland 211 opportunities for collaboration on responding to mental health and substance use crisis calls” and “request that MCPD track and report key data points on responses to mental health situations and associated uses of force.”

Montgomery County Police Department (MCPD) Chief Marcus Jones said he thinks there are ways to track the key data points the OLO recommended. He said some reclassification of codes and system re-configuring would have to happen. Jones said some of the OLO’s recommended data-collection points are related to recommendations in a community policing bill currently under the council’s consideration.

Data on mental health situations/public safety response is based on a disposition code assigned by a police officer and is not disaggregated by any specific diagnosis or behavior that is observed, said OLO Legislative Analyst Natalia Carrizosa. She said OLO cannot assess if those determinations are correct.

Carrizosa noted that national research shows other conditions, such as intellectual and developmental disabilities, can sometimes be confused with mental health situations.

The report found that between September 2017 and May 2020, MCPD responded to an average of 19 mental health situations daily. Police response to mental health situations dispatched by emergency communications took 154 minutes on average, according to the report, versus a 75-minute response on average for all emergency responses.

“Just last year alone— almost 7,000 cases that required response is remarkable when you consider the sheer volume,” Council Vice President Gabe Albornoz said.

Watch the full meeting here.

Suspected Mental Illness is Key Risk Factor for Use of Force by MCPD, Report Finds 

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