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A new answer for people with mental health problems

On Tuesdays and Wednesdays Tulsa is going to have a new asset when it comes to mental health problems. (KTUL)

TULSA, Okla. (KTUL)- On Tuesdays and Wednesdays, Tulsa is going to have a new asset when it comes to helping those with mental health problems.

A new Community Response Team will be on the streets to answer 9-1-1 calls.

The team is made up of a police officer, a fire department paramedic and a therapist.

When a call comes in about a person with a mental health problem, they'll try to defuse the situation.

Rachael Diacon is a Supervisor with Family and Children Services COPES, who worked on the pilot project.

She said it works, "Therapist comes in plain clothes, so it's a softer approach to responding to the 9-1-1 call. So, when someone is in crisis they have a therapist show up rather than just police officers."

The team will travel in fire department EMS truck.

They will respond to some calls and help with others that are already in progress.

During the pilot program, they ran on 111 calls.

In 67 of those cases, the released up the first officer on the scene, to go back on patrol.

So, officers aren't spending hours on situations that have nothing to do with the crime.

Tulsa Police Captain Shellie Seibert is the department's Mental Health Coordinator.

She said during the pilot program officers on the streets were quick to accept it and call for help.

Seibert said, "They were able to identify there were dealing with a mental health crisis and said we want to do more than just say they are safe here and leave. Let’s call over the CRT team."

Between them, a therapist and a paramedic can eliminate a lot of confusion.

Some medical problems can be mistaken for mental issues.

Michael Baker is the Chief Officer of EMS for the Tulsa Fire Department.

He said, "It's always good to have physical health component to be able to screen that individual."

By really understanding what's wrong with people in crisis situations the hope to make dangerous situations safer for everyone.

Then those who need help can get the right help.

For now, the Community Action team will be available on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, because those were the busiest days during the test period.

The team is being funded by the United Way.

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