TPD Mental Health Team working to de-escalate dangerous situations

TPD Mental Health Team working to de-escalate dangerous situations

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - The Tucson Police Department's Mental Health Team is playing a large role in helping de-escalate dangerous situations involving mentally ill people.

TPD officials said about a third of their calls involve someone who is mentally ill. The most expensive cost for TPD is incarcerating people.

They have determined that in many cases, it's not jail the person needs, but a treatment program.

Earlier this month, a man claiming to be armed with weapons and explosives parked his RV in front of a Tucson Police Substation. Police said if it was not for their mental health team, the 10-hour stand-off could have ended much differently.

"Within minutes of the response to that call, the officers realized they were dealing with someone that potentially suffered from mental illness," Sgt. Jason Winsky with TPD's Mental Health Support Team said.

Police said 37-year-old Thomas Scott Mills Jr. lost touch with reality when he allegedly threatened to blow up the substation. Officers immediately called in their mental health team to help. The team used different tactics with Mills than traditional reasoning.

"It's low and slow. We'll talk to the person as long as we need to. We try to ground them and orientate them," Winsky said.

The mental health team has specialized training in calming a mentally ill person down, running their background and finding out what medication they might need.

"We'll call their case manager right there from the scene and say, 'hey we're out here with your client and they're really struggling. Where should we take them?'" Winsky said.

When dealing with a mentally ill person who commits a crime, police used to take them to jail, but now the mental health team will redirect them to get the help they need at a treatment facility.

TPD points out the mentally ill who commit a crime are still accountable.

However, the mental health team will help the suspect continue on a treatment path after their court appearance.

The Behavioral Health Crisis Line is 866-896-8443.

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