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Mental Health Community Mobile Crisis Response Pilot Program Launches

For Immediate Release: 7/5/2023 3:47 pm

WORCESTER, Mass. – City Manager Eric D. Batista announced Wednesday the launch of the Mental Health Community Mobile Crisis Response Pilot Program.

The program, which was funded by the City of Worcester and developed by UMass Memorial Health’s Community Healthlink (CHL), is a crisis response model for effective response to emergency phone calls with substance use and mental health components. Community Healthlink worked closely with the City’s Emergency Communications and Management Department, Worcester Police Department (WPD), Worcester Fire Department (WFD), and Worcester Emergency Medical Services (WEMS), as well as local hospitals and community-based organizations to develop the new model.

The model is comprised of crisis teams, which consist of mental health clinicians, case managers, and peer educators who will be dispatched to crisis sites where they will de-escalate the situation, stabilize the client, and connect the client to local mental health and substance use resources.

“As we begin the new crisis response program with the City of Worcester, I’m encouraged by and thankful for the collaboration and support we’ve experienced with the Worcester Police Department, City leaders, and the Crisis Response advisory committee,” said Community Healthlink Interim President Gordon Benson. “Together, we are building the program the right way to deliver equitable and effective care to respond to people in crisis. I believe this is a transformational program for the City, and CHL is proud to be a part of it.”

To begin, CHL will have teams of field clinicians working out of their headquarters on Jacques Ave. from 3-11 p.m. who will respond to a limited number of areas geographically centered around the dispatch areas of the Worcester Fire Department’s South Division on Southbridge St. and the Park Avenue Fire Station.
911 call takers will determine the appropriate dispatch based on the information they receive from the caller (WPD, WFD, WEMS, CHL), and in some cases first responders from more than one or all agencies may be dispatched.

In cases where only CHL field clinicians are dispatched, WPD route officers will be notified as to the address/location of the call for assistance if needed. The Mobile Crisis Response team is equipped with cellphones, and each clinician has a panic button device to alert their dispatch if they need help.

If WPD responds to a call and finds that the subject of the call is in need of mental health assistance, responding officers can call the Mobile Crisis Response via the dispatch radio.

“We are thankful to Community Healthlink for their leadership in developing this program,” said Batista. “Not only did they create an inclusive, equitable model for service, but they also made sure to include all members of the community in the process of developing the program. We strongly believe this program will help improve the efficacy of response to and treatment of individuals in our City who are experiencing crisis.”

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