CITY HALL – The Department of Health has gotten the OK for a federal grant of more than a million dollars to help people who have mental illness get services they need to manage their conditions, handle daily life and avoid arrest in situations that might otherwise lead to jail.
The project grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration is worth a total of $1,648,627 over five years. The money will fund an early 911 diversion program that will offer targeted outreach instead of potential arrest.
The first step is to get people with serious mental illness connected to a network of people trained in crisis intervention, Dr. Fredrick Echols, the city’s acting health director, said in a statement Thursday.
“The program supported through these grant funds is a move in that direction when time is critical,” Echols said.
The diversion program is known as the Law Enforcement and Behavioral Health Partnership STL CARES (Community Assessment and Referral for Enduring Stability) program. It will train law enforcement officers to better deal with mentally fragile people in traumatic circumstances. It will also help officers and behavioral health providers figure out how to cooperate to serve such people. The project also involves helping mentally ill homeless people connect with the city’s housing initiatives. The idea is to de-escalate situations before they turn violent.
The health department will also allocate $131,955 a year toward the program.