By Marielle Mohs

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – The city of Minneapolis launched a new, unarmed mental health crisis response team six months ago. Their mission was to keep police from answering those calls and put them in the hands of experts.

Since December, the program has seen a lot of success, including one experience in the Lyndale neighborhood about three weeks ago.

“It’s disarming to wake up to someone you don’t know on your porch,” said Pam Christian, who woke up to a strange man she believed to be in his 20s, sitting on her porch.

I stuck my head out once I calmed down a little. The fact that he didn’t move and jump up or do anything, I thought he was hurt or otherwise compromised,” said Christian.

Through talking to him, Christian made the decision to call 911 and request the newly formed Behavioral Crisis Response team, better known as the BCR.

“They were so calm, so in control and when they got onto the porch with him, they knelt down to where he was,” Christian said.

The BCR launched back in December as an alternative to police during a crisis call. In the last 6 months, the team has diverted over 1,400 calls from MPD and provided service to every neighborhood, ward, and precinct in the city.

However, they are still grappling with not having enough vans to handle all eligible calls for service, and limited options for connecting people in crisis to community-based services.

Right now, the BCR responds 24 hours a day Monday through Friday. The city says it plans to expand to weekend service sometime soon.

Another resource is COPE, which is a 24/7 phone service that all of Hennepin County can utilize.

Marielle Mohs