This story is part of “All Those ‘Racial Reckoning’ Promises,” Word In Black’s series exploring the pledges made to the Black community following the Summer of George Floyd and what organizations and leaders can still do now to promote racial equity and justice.

Dialing 9-1-1 has taken on a new meaning for residents whose cities dispatch therapists in response to mental health crises instead of — or in addition to — police. 

The U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration recommended all Americans have access to these mobile crisis teams in early 2020, just months before the murder of George Floyd by police. 

Floyd’s city, Minneapolis, Minnesota, launched a behavioral crisis response program over a year after his murder. Led by Canopy Mental Health & Consulting, a Black-owned and women-led organization, the unarmed team responded to over 3,300 calls within the first six months. 

“Two of our big goals for the program are to decrease unnecessary hospitalization and end the criminalization of mental health,” Taylor Crouch-Dodson, strategic partnerships manager at Canopy, told state officials. 

One way they achieve this is by providing residents with transportation to safe, familiar locations.

“When we direct and provide people with a stable location outside of a hospital, outside of a prison, we’re able to get them to a healthier place long-term,” Crouch-Dodson said.

Compared to police intervention, data shows mobile crisis response teams curb rates of psychiatric hospitalizations. And for co-response teams, where officers accompany therapists, chances of an immediate arrest are lower for Black people. 

That’s why cities nationwide are also putting therapists on their streets.

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