Op-Ed: When Unarmed ‘Mental Health Experts’ Run Into Violent Criminals Instead of Cops, It’s Going to Get Ugly


Op-Ed

An ambulance is seen in this stock image.

Op-Ed

An ambulance is seen in this stock image. (blurAZ / Shutterstock)

 By Michael Letts  March 24, 2022 at 6:23pm

What could possibly go wrong with this plan?

A call comes in through 911. Because police have been widely defunded, if a dispatcher deems it a non-dangerous call, instead of sending police or fire personnel, health care workers are sent. Huh?

It’s not like EMS have never been shot at before, right? How about last year when a Pittsburgh-area man shot at the medics responding to a 911 call that the man had overdosed? Then there was the ambulance carrying a patient in Oklahoma that was hit when someone shot at it last year.

It’s not like a supposedly non-violent situation has never turned violent, right? How often have police been shot or stabbed while trying to de-escalate a domestic quarrel? If the same thing happens to a team of health care workers, are they supposed to poke the offenders with a syringe? Remember how Jason Rivera and Wilbert Mora, two New York City police officers, were killed in January responding to a domestic dispute when they didn’t even know the suspect was armed?

Los Angeles city and county officials recently announced the rollout of a pilot program to send mental health workers on 911 calls. The Therapeutic Transportation program will be on call 24 hours a day. “The idea of the program is to alleviate hospital overcrowding and allow police and firefighters to respond to calls they are best suited to handle,” according to Yahoo News.

“We know that mental health is best treated by mental health experts,” Mayor Eric Garcetti said. “Oftentimes, seeing a badge can trigger people’s trauma even more.”

This program will put mental health specialists in harm’s way. Will they be trained in how to deal with violence? Will they be armed? Will they be wearing personal protective gear, as in bulletproof vests?

They need the latter at the very least, but, according to Garcetti, seeing someone dressed in a way similar to police could be just the trigger that incites a violent reaction. So is the plan to send these specialists into a tense situation unarmed and unprotected?

Perhaps the program will be successful. That would be wonderful, but liberals don’t have a terrific track record when it comes to dealing with crime at any level. However, Garcetti said it has shown promise.

Do you support this program?

“In the first month, Garcetti said, mental health workers have responded to 113 calls,” Yahoo reported. “About 20% of those calls ended with someone being treated and released at the scene. About 13% of those calls resulted in patients being taken to a hospital — an 80% decline from similar calls in the past. … The remainder of the calls, the vast majority, resulted in patients being placed in alternative medical care facilities such as mental health clinics or drug treatment centers.”

If these numbers are accurate, the program may prove helpful, but Los Angeles can’t just worry about the mentally ill. Officials need to look out for the workers they are putting in harm’s way.

We have seen what happens when politicians limit how police can respond to violent situations: Officers frequently wind up getting shot.

These mental health workers are not sworn-in police officers. They can’t carry a gun. They may not be trained in self-defense.

Perhaps officials should take a tip from flight attendants who announce before a flight, “Parents with children on board, should the oxygen masks drop from the ceiling, put one on yourself first so you may better assist your child.”

Instead, Los Angeles seems to be trying to help the child to the peril of the parents.

The views expressed in this opinion article are those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by the owners of this website. If you are interested in contributing an Op-Ed to The Western Journal, you can learn about our submission guidelines and process here.

Michael Letts is the founder and CEO of In-VestUSA, a national grassroots non-profit organization helping hundreds of communities provide thousands of bulletproof vests for their police forces through educational, public relations, sponsorship and fundraising programs.

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