BOSTON (CBS) – The Boston Police Department hopes to add 15 mental health counselors to aid its police force.
As part of the resubmitted Fiscal Year 2021 budget, more money has been allocated to hire masters-level mental health clinicians, said Boston City Councilor Annissa Essaibi-George.
She said that in 2019, 911 took more than 10,000 calls that were mental-health related. The Boston Police Department also regularly responds to calls for domestic violence and overdoses.
In June, city councilors Michelle Wu, Lydia Edwards and Julia Mejia asked the city to create a crisis-response plan for non-violent 911 calls, since Boston police often respond to nonviolent calls for service that include issues such as homelessness and substance abuse that are beyond the scope of their function.
Mayor Marty Walsh proposed to the Boston City Council that a total of $12 million, or 20% of the police overtime budget be reallocated during June budget deliberations, calling racism a public health crisis.
“The money will be invested instead in community programs for youth, for homelessness, for people struggling with the effects of inequality,” he said.
When city councilors debated the budget in June, hundreds marched to divert money from the police into social justice programs.
However, the head of the Civic Youth Summit said he doesn’t believe incremental changes, like adding mental health councilors to the BPD, will do much. He said he would like to see an overhaul.
“Even when people come up with the idea that having more African American officers will make a difference – we’ve seen that that doesn’t work. We love them, but it doesn’t work. We need radical change,” said Danny Rivera of the Civic Youth Summit.
This new program will be hired through Boston Medical Center and overseen by the Boston Police Department.