The city of Bangor, Maine recently gave the Bangor Police Department $285,000 in its annual budget to fund the Bangor Community Assistance team. This team will consist of four mental health workers. The idea behind the team is to minimize interactions between those experiencing a mental health crisis and members of law enforcement.
The team will have the role of de-escalating and calming the person down and helping them with referrals for the services they need. If they need backup, they will be able to request assistance from the police.
This year, there were two encounters between Maine residents and police that ended with the police using deadly force. The Maine state agency that reviews the use of deadly police force has now advised police departments in Maine to develop a plan for when they respond to people dealing with a mental health crisis. The Bangor Police Department feels that this new program will help make a difference for both the Bangor police officers and the Bangor community.
This idea is not new and several other US cities have started something similar. In Eugene, Oregon, they started a program called CAHOOTS, which stands for the Crisis Assistance Helping Out on the Streets program. New York City started its program last year called B-HEARD, which stands for Behavioral Health Emergency Assistance Response Division. Rather than sending police a three-person team consisting of mental health and social workers responds to those calls where there is no threat of violence. Portland, Oregon started its program in 2020 called Portland Street Response, and it's modeled after the CAHOOTS program in Eugene, Oregon.