Brooklyn Park’s “Alternate Response Team” pairs social workers and paramedics on mental health calls
BROOKLYN PARK, Minn. – A Twin Cities suburb is leading the way in Minnesota on…
BROOKLYN PARK, Minn. – A Twin Cities suburb is leading the way in Minnesota on responding to mental health 911 calls.
Brooklyn Park now sends a social worker and paramedic to calls that don’t involve crimes being committed or threats of violence.
“Situations like welfare checks or a mental health call or somebody who’s overdosing or somebody who’s homeless,” said Nils Dybvig, the social worker leading the team.
Dybvig and his partner will sometimes respond alone, but more often he says they go with Brooklyn Park officers, waiting nearby for confirmation it’s safe. They also can get called in by cops already on scene.
“They really appreciated the fact my partner and I are very willing to jump in there,” Dybvig said. “We really see a lot of people who say, ‘Well this is exactly what we need.'”
Amity Dimock is someone with a profound interest in this. Brooklyn Center police killed her son, Kobe Dimock-Heisler, a man living with autism, while he was having a violent mental health episode at his home in 2019.
The family disputes the level of threat, but the officers weren’t charged.
“Go, Brooklyn Park!” Dimock said. “You are on the right side of history.”
Amity says her efforts to implement a similar program in nearby Brooklyn Center have been unsuccessful.
“Even as I’m trying to do this work, I’m realizing that it’s not even close to being enough because now you have these arbitrary lines in the sand where OK, you’re going to be safe here but you’re not going to be safe here,” Dimock said.
She’d like to see unarmed 911 response taken up at the state level.
Brooklyn Park Police Chief Mark Bruley says other departments, including Brooklyn Center, have reached out to him to talk about the success of this program. Bruley anticipates it will spread.