By Elise Kaplan
Albuquerque Journal, N.M.
Bernalillo County, New Mexico, is expanding its mobile crisis teams — the units tasked with responding to some behavioral health calls — by adding teams that are made up of a paramedic and a clinician.
County officials announced the move during a news conference on Tuesday, saying the Fire Mobile Crisis Teams are a collaboration among the city, the Bernalillo County Fire Department, Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office and Albuquerque Police Department.
The county and the city have had mobile crisis teams made up of a clinician and law enforcement — either an officer or a deputy — since 2018.
Greg Perez, the deputy county manager and fire chief, said the teams are able to respond to calls throughout the county.
He said that in the past month, a new team made up of a firefighter, a paramedic and clinician has been to about 26 calls. He said a second team made up of a deputy, a clinician and a paramedic has been to fewer.
“We’d love to have four teams at some point, together with our partners on the law enforcement side to do the MCT teams,” Perez said. “But we’ll see how it works out and what the numbers show with the two teams that we’ve got in place now.”
He said they’re making adjustments as to when the teams should be on duty based on an analysis of when the most calls come in.
County Commissioner Charlene Pyskoty said that when an officer is dispatched to a scene in response to a mental health crisis — if they make a determination that the scene is safe and does not need law enforcement — they can request a fire mobile crisis team.
“The Fire Mobile Crisis Team once dispatched to the scene will work closely to assess basic needs, provide on-site mental health assessment and intervention supports for adults, adolescents and their families in acute crisis stemming from a mental health related issue,” Pyskoty said.
Perez said officials have had some talks with the city about the administration’s planned Community Safety Department. That department has been described as a third option to the fire and police departments.
Deputy Chief Brian Rose said he has been working with the lieutenant in charge of APD’s Crisis Intervention Unit.
“We’re just a force multiplier,” Rose said. “Unfortunately, they don’t have enough MCTs to handle the response, but those low acuity behavioral health crises that we can handle clears them from those higher acuity cases which require that law enforcement presence.”
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