Columbus Expanding Alternative Response Program
Columbus officials say they're expanding a pilot program that offered a more appropriate response to certain emergency calls and reduced reliance on police and fire personnel. Over a four-week period this summer, a "Triage Pod" consisting of a social worker, emergency communications dispatcher and paramedic handled 9-1-1 calls involving mental health, addiction and other social determinants of health. The data came from a span of 72 operational hours from June 7 - July 2. According to the city, almost half the calls were either fully resolved by the Pod or redirected to local community resources and nearly 63% did not require an immediate police or fire dispatch.
"Sometimes we still send officers and EMS, but what our clinicians have been able to do is talk to that person while those units are en route, begin that de-escalation process, and gather more information so there's a much safer response when those units get there." Columbus Police Commander Dennis Jeffrey said. "Instead of someone showing up at your door unannounced, you now know who's coming, what to expect, and instructions on how best to safely encounter those officers or medics."
Plans are underway to expand the Pod’s hours of operation and build additional triage and follow-up units. City officials say they continue to collect and analyze data to further inform expansion efforts.