Philly embeds behavioral health specialist in 911 call center amid calls for police reform

Philadelphia now has a behavioral health specialist embedded in the police dispatch center for the first time in the city’s history — a step that Mayor Jim Kenney’s administration said marks progress toward promised police reforms.

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With behavioral health specialists assisting in the radio room, officials said the city can better identify 911 calls that involve mental health issues and offer services to those residents instead of arrest.

The initiative also includes a co-responder program, in which clinical staff and police work together to respond to such calls.“

The goal of the program is to safely deflect individuals with behavioral health needs away from the justice system and into more appropriate behavioral health care or social services in the community,” Kenney said.

The new program places clinical staffers with dispatchers to determine the best response to calls from the public or patrol officers involving behavioral health issues. A

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