The Greensboro Police Department (GPD) currently has a multitude of problems that it is working to solve.

A major one is the ever increasing vacancy rate.

However, one program instituted by the city in 2020 has been an unqualified success.

The Behavioral Health Response Team (BHRT) created in December 2020 has released its annual report for 2022, and it’s filled with good news.

The BHRT was created to handle calls to Guilford Metro 911 that involve a mental health crisis in Greensboro.  Before the BHRT was created, the GPD noted that it was receiving a high volume of calls from the same addresses to handle mental health issues.  The police officers responding were limited in their options.  The person causing the disturbance could be hospitalized or taken into custody.

The BHRT combines a specially trained police officer with a mental health professional to respond to calls that Metro 911 determines involve a mental health crisis.  This dual response team is working.  The police officers are there to ensure that the scene is safe and provide guidance about legal statutes and processes, while the mental health professionals provide expertise in de-escalation techniques, assessing suicidal or homicidal risk and treatment options.

The first attempt by the GPD at having mental health professionals on call used an outside agency that police officers on the scene could contact if deemed necessary.  This system was not working, so the city went back to the drawing board.

Former Assistant City Manager Kim Sowell led the effort to create the current system where the mental health professionals are city employees and accompany the police officers who have additional training in handling mental health crisis situations.  After the initial crisis has passed, the mental health professionals on the team also do follow-up calls.

According to the report, in 2022 the BHRT answered 2,357 mental health calls and made 1,220 follow-up contacts amounting to 956 hours of follow-up work.

Of the 1,220 people served by BHRT, 166 were unsheltered or living in temporary housing.

The BHRT has been successful, but it is evolving.  In August 2022, the BHRT added a community health paramedic to the team.