The recent decision by the Pleasanton City Council to test-drive a new program where licensed social workers ride along on mental health calls with the police is a positive, sensitive move.
The purpose of the pilot program is to lend a more human hand to those in crises, by partnering mental health professionals with the Pleasanton Police Department to assist on some of their 5150, non-life threatening calls. According to the police department, dispatch receives nearly 350 calls from individuals each year who are potentially a danger to themselves or others because of their mental health.
Bringing along a seasoned clinician on these emotionally charged calls, adds a quieter, less intimidating presence to an already sensitive situation. In addition, it frees up an encumbered police force to respond to other needs and emergencies in the community.
Given the nation’s current focus on law enforcement policy and procedure, the council hit a home run with their continued commitment toward de-escalating encounters between the public and the police. This model has been gaining popularity as more and more cities begin to rely less on the police for matters that aren’t criminal in nature.
Kudos also to Police Chief David Swing for taking the lead and endorsing this much-needed program. His recent comments at the city council meeting were encouraging and uplifting.
As communities throughout the state and country continue to embrace this form of mental health support, the public will benefit from a police force better able to respond to their law enforcement needs, and those in crisis will receive the care and attention they deserve.