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Open Letter for Mobile Mental Health Emergency Response Teams

An Open Letter to the City of Minneapolis 

On the Need for Mobile Mental Health Crisis Teams

__________________________________________________________________

To: Mayor Jacob Frey and Council Members Kevin Reich, Cam Gordon, Steve Fletcher, Phillipe Cunningham, Jeremiah Ellison, Jamal Osman, Lisa Goodman, Andrea Jenkins, Alondra Cano, Lisa Bender, Jeremy Schroeder, Andrew Johnson, Linea Palmisano

CC: Hennepin County Commissioners Mike Opat, Irene Fernando, Marion Greene, Angela Conley, Debbie Goettel, Jan Callison, Jeff Johnson

As the conversation around policing in Minneapolis continues, our coalition of small business owners and staff call for the formation of mobile mental health emergency response teams dispatched through 911 and available 24/7/365 for immediate in-person unarmed response.

Many small business owners and staff are put in the unfortunate position of being forced to call the police for interactions that do not truly require an armed response, simply because no other option currently exists. Our staff are not and cannot be equipped to fully resolve instances of patrons who are under the influence of serious substances, are experiencing a mental health crisis, or are significantly disrupting service and refuse to leave. However, individuals involved in these situations need to be connected to services, not criminalized, and businesses need experts who can resolve disruptions quickly and safely.

There is widespread consensus on this issue. According to MPR, three-quarters of voters agree with the redirecting of funds from the Minneapolis Police Department to social services. Police officers themselves also do not feel equipped to handle these calls—according to experts, “Surveys of officers suggest that they do not feel adequately trained to effectively respond to mental health crises, that mental health calls are very time-consuming and divert officers from other crime fighting activities.”

The Minneapolis Police Department’s current co-responder program and Hennepin County’s COPE program both provide a start at imagining a different solution, but neither fully address our true need. The COPE program dispatches mobile mental health crisis professionals, but currently only provides phone support due to COVID-19 and is not able to guarantee an immediate in-person response under normal circumstances. The MPD co-responder model dispatches a mental health professional and police officer, but armed police response in most circumstances does not help our business and simply is not necessary.

As small businesses, we need an emergency response team that is dispatched through 911, staffed 24/7, and that includes a trained mobile mental health care professional. We recognize that this is not something that currently exists. We are calling upon the bold leadership of the Mayor, City Council, and Hennepin County Commissioners to create it.

You can see the full list of signatures at the live letter here.

If you are a small business owner or employee who would like to add your name to this letter, please fill out this form and your name will be added to the list below.

If you are a member of the general public and would like to show your support for this issue, please fill out this form. Your name will not be added to the letter, but the total number of general public signatures will be shared with the City Council.