Bloomfield Township, Birmingham sign onto mental health embed

By: Tiffany Esshaki | Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published June 9, 2021

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BLOOMFIELD TOWNSHIP/BIRMINGHAM — In partnership with the Oakland County Health Network, the police departments of Bloomfield Township, Birmingham and Auburn Hills will soon launch a mental health embed that will employ a clinician to respond to mental health crises.

The new program comes at a cost of just over $133,000 in total to start, and then $103,000 going forward. For that the OCHN can employ one full-time qualified clinician to support the three participating communities. The clinician will spend equal time in each municipality to accompany or join officers on calls involving a person with mental illness, once law enforcement deems the situation safe.

That breaks down to an initial cost of $44,333 per municipality, and $34,333 per year after. That cost could be offset, however, with state and federal grants.

“It is the hope that by collaborating with the social work community and all of their associated resources, our Police Department will be more effective and responsive in meeting the expectations of the community in how we address the needs of people suffering from mental health crises and other non-criminal service calls,” said Birmingham Police Chief Mark Clemence in a memo to City Manager Tom Markus.

Birmingham Police Cmdr. Scott Grewe said the clinician will have a desk in each participating department, dividing their time equally between the three municipalities. That could change in the future, depending on need and utilization.

Bloomfield Township Police Chief Phil Langmeyer said he’s thrilled about the co-responder program, dubbed CoRE.

“Our goal is to use the least restrictive means possible to help these people and divert them from the criminal justice system,” Langmeyer said. “We believe this will be best for the individuals and families and, hopefully, stop repeated calls for service from the same location.”

That could be a big help to officers already stretched thin. Over the past three years, Birmingham has handled 319 service calls labeled “mental health,” usually involving a suicide attempt or drug overdose. Bloomfield Township took 333 such calls and Auburn hills 352 turning that same time.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness estimates that 10% of all service calls to police involve a mental health component.

“We think that number is very low, because many of our calls have a mental health component to them but they’re labeled something else,” Langmeyer added. “This program will help us in better tracking the number of people we are contacting that are suffering a behavioral health crisis.”

Ideally, when a call comes in to police dispatchers about a behavioral incident, officers can call on the clinician to come to the site and work with the subject to connect them to resources that “can provide long-term, stabilizing support,” Langmeyer explained.

“Law enforcement is not equipped to address mental health issues and get people the help they need,” he continued. “We will be able to do that (by partnering with the OCHN). This is a first for Oakland County. We’re very excited about this collaboration.”