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Detroit Police Department aims to better serve those struggling with mental illness

Pilot program with mental health network enters third monthh
Posted at 4:49 PM, Mar 25, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-26 10:50:14-04

DETROIT (WXYZ) — On Nov. 2, Michael Moza was in crisis. The 30-year-old suffered from paranoid Schizophrenia for a decade and on this day, he checked himself into the crisis center at Detroit Receiving Hospital.

RELATED: Family, police say DMC Crisis Center failed to help man who later died in crash, shootout

“He’s a paranoid schizophrenic, knowing he was off his medication and he’s literally begging for help,” said his sister Mae Davis.

But the same day he was admitted, Moza was released. The next morning, he would suffer a breakdown, turning a gun on Detroit police before being gunned down himself.

“It makes absolutely no sense. Absolutely no sense,” Davis said. “And this could have been prevented had they kept him…he was killed with his hospital band still on.”

Citing patient privacy laws, Detroit Receiving Hospital declined to comment in November when this story was first reported.

Detroit police have watched scenes like this play out far too often. Earlier this year, it started a pilot program inside the 9th Precinct and in downtown Detroit: a partnership between law enforcement and mental health professionals in the hopes of filling the gaps that people like Michael Moza keep falling through.

“I’ve never met an officer who says I just love to draw my gun,” said Eric Doeh, Interim CEO of the Detroit Wayne Integrated Health Network. “If an officer does not have to do that, he or she would take that route any and every day.”

One of the tenets of the pilot program, Doeh says, is taking mental health clinicians from his health network and putting them inside Detroit’s 911 call center.

“We wanted to be able to deal on that front where it was connecting people to services rather than having folks come into contact with law enforcement and result in something that wasn’t positive,” he said.

Tinetra Burns is one of the clinicians now stationed inside the city’s call center.

“They get over two to three hundred calls within a week that’s mental health-related,” she said.

Mental health clinicians like Burns are now training a small number of officers in how to respond to calls involving the mentally ill. For calls that are an emergency, DPD dispatches two officers and a mental health clinician in the same vehicle.

“Jointly, they determine whether or not that person … whatever the need is,” said Capt. Tonya Leonard-Gilbert, who oversees the program. "Sometimes it’s a transport to an evaluation center, sometimes it might be transport to a hospital. Sometimes it can be a range of things.”

While many of the calls require an emergency response, many do not. Some mental health consumers flood 911 with calls that don’t need police but do require treatment.

Last year, one man alone was responsible for 4,000 911 calls.

Now, clinical specialists like Burns connect those needing services with mental health providers.

But she’s not just reacting. When she isn’t getting calls, Burns is making them, proactively reaching out to mental health consumers who’ve called 911 in the past.

“We call those individuals back just to learn more about why they called 911, just to see if they need additional services and support,” she said.

Doeh says it allows for his staff to keep in contact with mental health consumers rather than wait for a crisis.

“That means you have a case manager who’s checking in with you, you have a clinical team who’s checking in with you,” he said. “If I connect someone to a provider, I am saying as DWIHN, we are in this as a team. It is a sort of tripod relationship that we’ve now established.”

It’s only month three of this three-year-pilot program, but it’s already having an impact.

So far, officers and mental health clinicians have jointly responded to nearly 400 911calls involving the mentally ill. Call center clinicians have connected 40 callers to mental health services.

They hope with each call, they’re reaching people that weren’t being helped before. People like Michael Moza.

“I’m not saying these are numbers that are breaking rooftops here,” Doeh said. “But these are lives, and it matters to me that we are connecting people to services. We are also helping police officers in how they deal with this population.”

Contact 7 Investigator Ross Jones at ross.jones@wxyz.com or at (248) 827-9466.