Study Shows 911 Dispatchers Not Equipped to Handle Mental Health Issues

In Summary

A recent study revealed that 911 call center staff are not trained well enough to deal with mental health crises.

A Pew Research Center survey released Tuesday showed that 911 call centers have telecommunicators who lack behavioral health crisis training.  

According to CNN, when people dial 911 in the case of an emergency, operators follow procedures and receive the caller’s information. This allows for the operator to dispatch someone to the scene. However, there is no direct national protocol on how to aid in an emergency call.  

With over 5,000 call centers across the U.S., this creates a divided emergency call system. 

“To develop best practices for these emergencies — including possible alternatives to arrest or other criminal justice responses — it is crucial to identify, understand, and address crisis response system deficits,” Pew said in a statement.  

Pew collaborated with the National Emergency Number Association to understand how 911 call centers handle behavioral crisis events. Pew conducted the survey by sending questionnaires to 233 call centers in the U.S.  

Only 37 responses were received in 27 states, so the study cannot be considered nationally representative, Pew noted.  

“While Pew’s research presents only a snapshot of 911 crisis services in a small number of communities across the country, the findings suggest a need to better understand the challenges call centers face in addressing mental health and substance use-related emergencies, and to develop policy solutions tailored to the unique circumstances of each call center and its service area.” 

If you or someone you know is struggling from trauma triggered by this story, resources are available here. 

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