Lexington police will now have access to crisis intervention counselors to help with calls involving mental illness, addiction or people experiencing homelessness. New Vista, the community mental health provider for Fayette County and the surrounding 16 counties, recently received a two-year federal grant for a crisis intervention team. That team can be called to help police with someone who needs mental health or other services.
Laura Hatfield, director of One Lexington, a violence intervention program, told a Lexington-Fayette Urban County Council committee on Tuesday a member of that crisis team could be available on the telephone, via telehealth or could go to scenes if needed. “They can deploy an individual and support that person,” Hatfield said. “They have a full-time staff of five people.” Hatfield said the police are aware of the new program but are trying to better publicize it. New Vista is producing a video that will be available soon and distributed widely so officers are informed of the new crisis intervention services. In addition, Lexington police started last week to track calls in which a social worker or mental health professional would have been helpful, Hatfield said. In 2016, the Alexandria police chief hired a social worker to help answer 911 calls after noticing nearly two-thirds of the 911 calls were not about potential lawbreaking. Most of the calls were for mental health problems. Police were often repeatedly called to the same houses for noncriminal activity. Hiring a social worker to connect people with services they needed helped police officers focus on crime, said police officials in the Kentucky town south of Cincinnati.