David Wallace: What happens after the 911 call? | TheUnion.com
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David Wallace: What happens after the 911 call?

The shooting death of Ariella “Sage“ Crawford by a sheriff’s deputy after a 911 call is an unfortunate result of the working policies of Nevada County. That another confrontation between a woman and law enforcement happened within one day underscores that when mental illness is involved, Nevada County policies still don’t work.

Twenty years ago a mentally-ill person changed Nevada County forever. He shot and killed three people and wounded others. One result is Laura’s Law, which enables law enforcement and citizens to initiate mental health care for a person at risk.

Another result is that we have better programs to help people when they are mentally ill. These include Turning Point, Spirit Center, Homeless Outreach and Medical Engagement Team (HOME), Sierra Nevada Hospital Crisis Stabilization Unit, Advocates for Mentally Ill Housing, Hospitality House, Community Beyond Violence and more.



Many agencies do wellness checks. Our public safety coverage involves the Sheriff’s Department, three city police departments, and many fire departments all working together. Our courts recognize mental illness and other special needs and try to foster healing and restoration instead of jail time. This is not enough.

What’s missing from emergency response in Nevada County? Other communities have the same problem. In Eugene, Oregon, a program has been in operation for nearly 30 years. It is called CAHOOTS (Crisis Assistance Helping Out On The Streets). Unarmed crisis responders who operate in pairs are reached through the police non-emergency line or 911. It takes the police off the front lines of public safety response.




What should change because Ariella Crawford died? Police do not need to be the primary responders on all calls. When weapons or violence are not involved, response should be by unarmed and trained crisis counselors and emergency medical technicians. This is most of the calls and should be full-time.

Police response like fire response is essential for special cases, and the police officer and firefighter roles are part of our culture. That’s why change will not be easy.

Data from all the service programs can be used to test proposed changes and make an effective and efficient plan. We do not need oversight of police officers, but to change their role.

Learn what your mental health resources are and how to use them. Expect and support changes to make them better. A better emergency response program can save the life of a family member or friend when they are mentally ill.

David Wallace lives in Nevada City.


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