With mental health calls on the rise, Providence seeks to better help those in crisis


PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The city of Providence is making an effort to better deal with mental health crisis calls.

On Thursday, city leaders announced they’re partnering with The Providence Center, Family Service of Rhode Island, and other community members to launch a Behavioral Health Crisis Response Program following a request for proposals earlier this year.

Mayor Jorge Elorza says the city has seen a 92% increase in mental health calls from 2018 to last year, which were often responded to by police officers or firefighters.

“The design of this Behavioral Health Crisis Response Program will ensure that these calls for service are shifted from traditional public safety resources so that trained experts respond to these incidents where individuals need a helping hand and not handcuffs and result in better outcomes,” Elorza explained.

The mayor’s office said the request for proposals had the following goals in mind for the program:

  • Ensure that behavioral health and/or social service issues with connections to the Providence Public Safety Department have an appropriate response by behavioral health and/or social service providers.
  • Reduce justice involvement in behavioral health and social service issues; and
  • Reduce the likelihood of recurring issues and produce better physical and behavioral health outcomes for people in Providence.

The city said it received five bids and chose the one submitted by The Providence Center and their long-standing partner, Family Service of Rhode Island.

“Our decades of experience providing evidence-based and immediate crisis response to our state’s most vulnerable children and families puts us in a unique position to partner with The Providence Center,” Family Service of RI Vice President Sarah Kelly-Palmer said. “This will be a comprehensive effort to make informed recommendations that meet the changing needs of our community, create equity, and foster better outcomes for the citizens of Providence.”

The program will be funded in part by $600,000 set aside in the city budget.

The engagement with The Providence Center and Family Service of Rhode Island is expected to be completed in November with a final set of recommendations issued in a final report.

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