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Pew study finds lack of mental health training for 911 operators

The Fairfax County 911 Center in Virginia takes calls during Hurricane Sandy in 2012. It was relatively easy to locate callers when most people used landlines. But most 911 calls now come from cellphones, which can pinpoint a callers' location only within 100 to 300 meters.
Greg E. Mathieson Sr.
911 Call Center

We hear plenty about how emergency calls involving people in mental health crisis often end up handled by police. Which means people who need treatment often end up in jail instead.

The issue starts earlier in the process of seeking emergency help, reports the Pew Charitable Trusts. A recent Pew study focuses on the 911 systems and dispatchers who take the calls about people in mental health crisis.

For one thing, the examination found that there's not a lot of information available across the thousands of 911 systems in the country. And the responses to Pew's questions indicate that many dispatchers are not trained in handling a behavioral health crisis.

Tiffany Russell, Mental Health and Justice Partnerships Project Director, visits with further details of the findings.

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The Jefferson Exchange is Jefferson Public Radio's daily talk show focused on news and interests across our region of Southern Oregon and Northern California. Angela Decker is the senior producer, Charlie Zimmermann is the assistant producer, and Geoffrey Riley hosts the show.