Roseville Mayor Dan Roe was on a police ride-along a few years ago as they responded to an individual with mental health issues who was harming themselves. Roe said he was struck by the realization it likely wouldn't be the person's last crisis.
Too often, Roe and Roseville police leaders say, the cycle repeats: officers and social workers respond to a mental health crisis and a person is admitted to a hospital, but then doesn't receive follow-up support, and soon are interacting again with police.
"We find a lot of people in crisis, and it becomes a revolving door where they get stabilized, but when they don't have that support afterwards, they can fall right back into crisis," Roseville Police Chief Erika Scheider told City Council members at a recent meeting.
Last Monday, the Roseville council unanimously passed a plan to partner with the nonprofit People Incorporated, adding a licensed mental health professional to help provide follow-up outreach services. The new employee is expected to focus on the back end of crisis incidents, connecting people to treatment and facilities to ensure they take the next steps.
"We are so fortunate to have these tools to help us move toward a different way to respond to people, and looking at what each individual person needs," City Council Member Julie Strahan said.
The agreement funds the full-time outreach worker, provided by People Incorporated, for a two-year pilot period.
Half the funding — $50,000 per year for two years — would come from People Incorporated, while Roseville police would seek to use American Rescue Plan funding for the remaining salary (not to exceed $50,000 per year).
The city is not required to fund the position after the two years but will evaluate whether it's worth continuing, Roe said.
"We're able to really utilize the training of de-escalation and also being trauma-informed for individuals who are experiencing a mental health crisis, calming the situation down and really being relatable to those individuals," said Veronika Mix , vice president of community engagement at People Incorporated.
The addition has been sorely needed, according to Deputy Chief Joe Adams.
"In my entire career of 16 years, we've definitely had a need for someone who specializes in mental health, as the number of crises continues to increase year after year," Adams said.
Adding the new position will also allow the county workers to spend more time responding alongside police officers to crisis calls, where in the past they had to spend more time following up with people after an incident, Adams said.
Since 2018 the nonprofit has partnered with the St. Paul Police Department, and now has two embedded mental health professionals who respond to calls, Mix said.
In 2022 People Incorporated assisted over 1,400 people through the partnership in St. Paul, either with police through calls or on their own, Mix said. That includes connecting people suffering from illnesses to treatment services and facilities.
"It's about so much more, and about People Incorporated taking a multifaceted approach to improving relationships between communities and police," Mix said about the partnership.
The goal includes taking those in crisis to a hospital or other facility when it's needed, and when sending them to jail would fail to solve their underlying issues.
Roseville, like many U.S. cities, has experienced a surge in mental health service needs. Since 2020, Roseville Police Department saw a 50% increase in calls for mental health-related issues, according to the request.
The city has also added other positions to help augment responses during mental health crises.
In 2021 the council approved a three-year partnership with Ramsey County to embed two county social workers in the Police Department, who provide "stabilization and follow-up support" for people in mental health crises, according to the request.
In an interview, Roe said he remembered doing a police ride-along after getting elected, during which officers responded to someone threatening self-harm. It was someone who had been the focus of previous 911 calls, and Roe said he thinks the new outreach worker should help reduce the number of people stuck in a cycle of crises.
"This work with People Incorporated will really help with the follow-up part that has been missing up to this point," Roe said.
Scheider explained to the council that county social workers' focus is on field work, going out when someone has a crisis, while the new outreach worker would respond in the days or weeks after the crisis and connect people to further resources.
At the end of the pilot with both People Incorporated and Ramsey County in 2025, the Police Department will evaluate the needs of the community, the request states.