The City of Indianapolis plans to include more mental health response resources in the 2023 county operating budget.
Mayor Joe Hogsett joined representatives from Public Health and Safety and Faith, Indiana, in announcing the plan.
Hogsett said the office has budgeted $2 million for clinician-led mental health response teams.
“Now this will be a non-law enforcement response that engages residents when needed to reduce unnecessary entanglement with the criminal justice system,” Hogsette said.
The pilot program could be an alternative to calling the police if someone is in a mental health crisis. Indianapolis has a Mobile Crisis Assistance Team (MCAT) that handles mental health calls, but they are not available 24/7. The proposed crisis response team operates 24 hours a day.
Following the death of Herman Whitfield III on April 25, there were calls for the creation of a clinician-led crisis response team. Herman Whitfield III, 39, died in police custody while suffering from an apparent mental health crisis. A wrongful death lawsuit was filed against the police officer involved in the incident.
Josh Riddick, organizer of Faith in Indiana, said he has spoken to more than 800 predominantly black residents of Marion County for their input on the project. He said the community has made it clear that a non-law enforcement response to public safety is needed. Whitfield’s death made the need for a mental health team especially clear.
“This situation has certainly renewed existing fires,” Riddick said. “They are not the only families on our base who have lost loved ones to police violence.”
A portion of the proposed funds will also be used for additional mental health training for 9-1-1 dispatchers.
City officials have clarified that many of the details of the pilot program have yet to be confirmed.
If the budget bill is passed in October, it is expected to go into effect early next year.