Missoula’s New Crisis Response Team Takes a Look at Data and Outcomes with New Grant
MISSOULA – A series of mental health and incarceration grants in Missoula could fund the data collection needed to improve how law enforcement responds to crisis situations and help homeless people get a lodging.
Missoula County this week signed a number of agreements with community providers looking to deploy funds provided by the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services on a range of issues.
The grants include $ 65,000 to fund a mental health coordinator at the Partnership Health Center and $ 66,000 for an outreach coordinator at the Western Montana Mental Health Center.
But it was an $ 80,000 grant to the city and county that got local mental health advocates talking this week. The funding, valid throughout this fiscal year, will provide the data analyst needed to follow the young Missoula crisis response team.
And that, said Theresa Williams, CIT program manager, is about results.
“We need the data and we need to make data-informed decisions,” said Williams. “This is something we should do at the start of a program: evaluate, research, and plan all of these things so that we know we are effective.”
The city and county of Missoula launched efforts last spring to reform the way law enforcement responds to calls involving mental health issues. The resulting Crisis Response Team, managed by the Missoula Fire Department, now enforces law enforcement more strategically and employs behavioral health experts.
Although the team has been up and running for about a year, the effort still lacks the data collection needed to track results. Looking at the CIT program as a whole, Williams said questions remain about the quality of CIT officer training and what kind of results the program has achieved, among others.
“It’s so important that we have a single point of contact working in agencies that have CIT trained agents and assess that our training is actually making a difference to the people,” said Williams. “When we have someone having a behavioral health crisis, do we send the right resources? What does it look like in the results? “
Williams said the CIT program overlaps with a number of other programs, including 911 and the mobile support team. The data collected by the analyst could inform decisions and changes at all levels.
The program will work with the University of Montana, Williams added.
“These are the data experts,” she said. “The university is going to prepare this for us – what kind of data system we need to use and what data elements we need to collect. Once we hire that data analyst, the university will have them set up with everything they need. “
The grants also include $ 105,000 to fund clinicians as part of the mobile support team and an additional $ 64,000 to hire a rental support specialist at the Partnership Health Center.
“Partnership Health will work with people in the temporary secure outdoor spaces, and they will work to help them obtain and maintain permanent housing,” said Terry Kendrick, county special project coordinator. “Once housed, they will help them make sure they have the resources and services they need to keep that home.