Police Chief Mike Masterson is tired of statistics that show a growing number of 911 calls for people in mental distress, specifically people threatening suicide.
Such cases can be a drain on resources, and put officers and the public in danger, especially when suicidal people have weapons.
To work on solutions, Masterson turned to an old idea get a bunch of smart people in one room to swap ideas.
A new Coordinated Community Response team, with members from Boise police, the Ada County Coroners office, the Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline, The Suicide Prevention Action Network of Idaho, the Boise Community Ombudsman and the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare met for the first time earlier this month to look at how they can work together to knock those numbers down.
Masterson announced the team Wednesday when he responded to a Tuesday report about the May shooting of a man officials said wanted to die via suicide by cop.
So far in 2012, Boise police have received 6,678 calls for for mental holds, welfare checks or people undergoing some kind of mental health issue, including threatening suicide.
In 2008, the number of those calls was 5,352.
Masterson wants to reverse that trend, and he hopes the CCR team can do that by letting all the agencies know what each one provides, and how those resources can help someone before they call 911 threatening to harm themselves or others.
The idea is to think smarter and not harder, using data to successfully figure out solutions to some of these problems, Masterson said Wednesday. If we all know what we bring to the table, it can make a difference.
Community Ombudsman Pierce Murphy is a member of the CCR group and has high hopes for it. He and Masterson hope to include private medical providers and nonprofits as part of the brainstorming process.
Through timely and effective assistance and intervention, long before things reach a crisis point, we hope to reduce the number of times the police are called because someone is out of control or threatening suicide, said Murphy.
Murphy said Wednesday he plans to review the Boise Police Departments crisis-intervention team, a group of 35 patrol officers, detectives and school resource officers trained to understand and diffuse tense situations involving people with mental health, substance abuse and emotional problems.
The team has been in place since 2009. The continued increase for calls for mental health holds and welfare checks make this a good time to do a best practices review of other law enforcement crisis-intervention teams across the country to see if they have ideas Boise police can adopt.
Patrick Orr: 377-6219, Twitter: @IDS_Orr