Dayton plans Crisis Response Unit, moving mental-health calls away from police

The city of Dayton will receive a $1.4 million grant from the state to fund the new crisis response program

The city of Dayton is set to receive a $1.4 million grant which will go toward a new crisis response program expected to start later this year.

The city’s Crisis Response Unit will include six specialists, including licensed professionals, trained to handle mental-health crises, according to a press release. The team will respond to select 911 and direct calls.

Mental health crisis calls have typically been handled by police. The new unit will allow police to focus more on crime calls and be more prepared for their next call, according to the city.

From March 2021 to September 2022, mental health-related calls increased by 73% in Dayton, the city reported.

Last June, Dayton started a Mediation Response Unit, which has responded to nearly 2,000 direct and 911 calls. The team uses mediation-based de-escalation responses in neighborhood disputes and other low-level conflicts.

Mediation responders often handle calls for service about neighbor disputes, juvenile issues, welfare checks, disorderly individuals and complaints about barking dogs and parking concerns.

Within a few months of the program launching, the team responded to hundreds of calls, which officials said helped reduce the burden on police since officers were dispatched to fewer incidents.

One of the goals of the program was to reduce the number of interactions with police and citizens that generally have the potential to escalate into use of force and arrests and criminal charges.

The Crisis Response Unit will operate similarly, but will respond specifically to mental health calls, according to the city. Clinicians will de-escalate the situation and connect those involved to support services when needed to divert them from the criminal justice system if possible.

The grant is from the Ohio Criminal Justice Services, which is part of the Ohio Department of Public Safety.