Mental health experts wonder why no counselors responded to I-65 police shooting Messages
NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) — Mental health experts continue to criticize why counselors weren’t at a shooting on I-65 last week. Metro Police launched the Partners in Care pilot program, in which officers ride with mental health counselors.
On Thursday, law enforcement officials and 911 dispatchers admit a counselor could have changed the outcome that led to Landon Eastep’s death. So why weren’t any counselors at the scene last week?
The Mental Health Co-op said that’s because they only have six psychiatrists in the program, and two of them are part-time. It’s small right now, only in the MNPD North and Hermitage counties. Mental health advocates say the program needs to grow.
In a bodycam video by an MNPD officer, you can see a group of nine police officers point their guns at Landon Eastep. What is not visible? A mental health expert.
“This is what it looks like when you don’t know how to deal with mental health issues,” attorney Joy Kimbrough said at a news conference last week. “This is the result; that’s what you get.”
A major change occurred at the Metro Police Department on Monday as officers officially patrol with mental health professionals alongside them for the first time.
Eastep’s widow, Chelesy Eastep, also noticed this criticism.
“They have shields, they have tasers, they have rubber bullets or beanbags, they have dogs,” Chelesy Eastep said. “And if you see someone struggling with their mental health, the first thing you should not do is point your gun at them.”
On Thursday, mental health experts admit a mental health professional needs to be present at scenes like the one where Landon Eastep died.
“It’s the right resource at the right time, and last week’s incident certainly underscores the importance of this work,” said Dia Cirillo, Metro Nashville’s senior policy advisor.
At the moment, a police officer and a mental health counselor are working together to respond to calls in the North and Hermitage counties. Emergency Communications Center dispatchers know that needs to change.
“I think over the last week or so we’ve had an opportunity to consider what other qualifying types of service might be eligible, specifically for the incident that happened a week ago,” said Stephen Martini, director of the Emergency Communications Centre.
That is why supporters want to expand the program beyond the two districts.
“If we receive a replacement request from a neighboring incident or agency requesting service, we might seek out a mental health co-response unit to respond to such calls,” Martini explained.
The numbers show it works. In the past seven months, psychiatrists have responded to 1,500 incidents. 800 of these incidents involved someone with a mental health crisis and only a small fraction (2.2%) required officers to use force.
They are calls that MNPD officer Gabriel Centeno answers.
“It helps to show up with someone who isn’t wearing a police uniform,” says Centeno. “People have all kinds of different interactions with cops, sometimes a uniform is disarming.”
Chief John Drake announced last week that he plans to expand the Partners in Care program to the Midtown and Central counties soon.
earlier the Partner in Care program was approved for a year-long pilot and received more than $560,000 in allocated federal funding during the pandemic.
Metro Nashville’s Partners-in-Care pilot presented its quarterly results following the program’s launch in the summer.