The Los Angeles Board of Police Commissioners Tuesday will consider expanding the LAPD’s one-year pilot program contract with mental health professionals to respond to certain 911 calls 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
The board voted unanimously on Jan. 26 to authorize Police Chief Michel Moore to execute an agreement with Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services to have their psychiatric professionals respond to some nonviolent calls from noon to 8 p.m. each day. The pilot program was adopted in a motion by the City Council on Dec. 8 and approved by Mayor Eric Garcetti on Dec. 15.
If the contract expansion is approved, Didi Hirsch will begin providing 24-hour service starting on July 1. The nonprofit’s compensation from the city’s Innovation Fund will be increased from $378,522 to $838,522.
People who call 911 in suicidal crisis or severe emotional distress are diverted to Didi Hirsch, which provides crisis support and mental health assistance. Their mental health professionals offer services in 13 languages, as well as accommodations for the deaf community.
A police response is sent in instances where the person has a weapon, is driving a vehicle erratically, or other cases that pose a threat to others.
Didi Hirsch’s services were contracted “on a limited basis to allow the LAPD to assess the efficacy of this program and to determine if any changes are needed before it is more widely implemented,” according to the agreement, which became effective on Feb. 10.
The 911 call diversion is “to ensure that individuals who are experiencing mental health or suicidal crisis receive the appropriate support in a timely manner and to reduce the need for the Los Angeles Police Department to respond to these types of calls,” according to a letter from Moore to the police commission in January.
LAPD officers respond to thousands of mental health calls every year. On June 16, 2020, amid widespread anti-police brutality protests in Los Angeles and across the nation, Councilwoman Nury Martinez and Councilman Herb Wesson Jr. introduced a motion to have the chief legislative analyst report on developing an unarmed model of crisis response for non-violent calls including for mental health crises, substance abuse and neighbor disputes.
The motion was passed with 14 yes votes and one absent.
“As the country engages in a national conversation on the re-imaging of public safety, the city of Los Angeles should look to be a leader (like it has in the past) and act boldly to structurally change how it delivers services to its residents, particularly those who have been historically marginalized and neglected,” the motion said.
“In order to properly service the most vulnerable, the city of Los Angeles should look to advance non-law enforcement solutions in circumstances that are non-criminal.”
Police commissioners will consider expanding the contract with Didi Hirsch during their virtual meeting at 9:30 a.m. The public can watch at bit.ly/3x4m7d4.