Fresno Police creating Crisis Response Team to provide resources for those with mental health problems

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Every day Fresno Police Officers commit anywhere from eight to 10 people on mental health holds. (KFSN)

Every day Fresno Police Officers commit anywhere from eight to 10 people on mental health holds. Just this weekend a man who police said was mentally ill broke a door at police headquarters.

Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer knows many calls that involve a 51-50 code take more to troubleshoot and resolve than the average officer has time to figure out.

One sergeant and four officers are now dedicated and specially trained to handle these types of often complex situations. They will be partnered up with four mental health clinicians to answer calls related to mental health. The goal is to provide lasting resources instead of quick fixes.

"Learning more about the individuals they are dealing with, and to be able to divert those individuals out of the criminal justice system and ensure that they are getting the mental health services they need," said Dyer.

Dawan Utecht is the director of Behavioral Health. She knows firsthand that many who suffer from mental health issues have other problems that also need to be addressed.

"We think as we increase the amount of substance use disorder services and the ability for individuals to access those services, we should have a better success than we've had in the past."

The pilot program is designed to provide direct links to resources instead of just paperwork with a list of helplines.

Tuesday morning, officers said a man with a history of mental health problems stabbed an officer at Shaw and Brawley. Chief Dyer said the suspect was riding with his mom in a car when he hopped out, pushed someone off a bicycle, and then stabbed the window of an espresso stand with a large bowie knife.

Moments later, the suspect dropped the weapon but stabbed an officer with a second knife. His protective gear saved his body from being pierced. The suspect was arrested.

These types of incidents are what the new crisis team will be responding to.

"We're not gonna be able to respond to all the calls because there's just too many, but we will be able to respond to enough of then where we make a significant difference," said Dyer.

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