Dakota County’s 911 dispatchers can now send mental health calls directly to social workers, as a result of a state law passed in 2021.
DAKOTA COUNTY, Minn. — “It’s Mental Health Awareness Month and we see this as an opportunity,” said Emily Schug, Dakota County Social Services deputy director.
To highlight Mental Health Awareness Month this May, Schug says the county is continuing to expand their crisis resources.
“In Dakota County, we have a state of the art training facility where we help train officers and other public safety partners on crisis intervention training,” she said.
That training center opened last year, providing space for local law enforcement agencies and first responders to access crisis training.
The Dakota County Board of Commissioners also recently approved funding for nine more social workers – as plans were already being laid for non-law enforcement response options to mental health crises.
“We recognize the growing need for mental health services,” she said.
Dakota County’s dispatch referral program launched around September, in partnership with several local agencies.
Through February, 78% of the county’s crisis calls were routed to social workers.
Something Schug says allows a designated professional to access the situation and arrange for more help. Prior to the 911-transfer program, those calls would have begun with a law enforcement response.
“It’s been very successful,” she said.
Schug says the county is working on ongoing partnerships to provide a combination of responses at any given time.
With mental health calls increasing every year, Schug says the goal is finding long-term solutions for those in need.
“If people do reach out to 911 for support and help, we want to make sure we are in a position to respond with people who are trained in mental health and know the connections for resources,” she said.
Visit the Dakota County website for more information on mental health resources. The suicide lifeline can be reached at 800-273-8255 or by texting “hom” to 741741.
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