This App Wants To Help People In Mental Health Crises Avoid Police

Photographed by Alexandra Gavillet.

When it comes to mental health emergencies, the police often aren't the best people to call. Yet, the police frequently field calls about people having mental health emergencies — sometimes with deadly results.

A new app called Concrn wants to alleviate this problem. The non-profit aims to become a 911 alternative in times when someone is having a mental health emergency, so that people with mental illnesses can avoid dangerous run-ins with the police.

As TechCrunch reports, Concrn is currently only serving people in San Francisco's Tenderloin neighborhood, where 80% of the calls the San Francisco police receive are about mental health. Police rarely have training in how to respond to mental health emergencies, TechCrunch reports, so Concrn is attempting to send people who do have training in their place.

Concrn currently has seven full-time responders, who have backgrounds in such fields as social work and emergency medical training, as well as a community of volunteer responders. Each person working with the app is required to go through a 20-hour training session to learn about conflict resolution, de-escalation training, and compassionate response.

Since the app launched in 2013, they have been called onto more than 2,000 mental health crises and get about five to 10 calls a day, Concrn's co-executive director Neil Shah told TechCrunch.

Responders assess the situation, decide whether or not the police are needed, and then attempt to help. "From there, it’s connecting the person to relevant services, like walking someone to a shelter, retrieving information about them from a case manager, and ensuring they get reconnected," Shah told TechCrunch.

When someone you know is struggling, it can be absolutely necessary to call 911 — especially if you don't live in the Tenderloin and there's no alternative. But the app's goal is to work with the police and other emergency services in the city to provide the best care for people with mental illnesses.

"Our belief is that when community members, service providers, government agencies are all communicating and coordinating together through Concrn, we create a more effective path to resilience for vulnerable people in need of support,” Shah said.

If you are experiencing anxiety and are in need of crisis support, please call the Crisis Call Center’s 24-hour hotline at 1-775-784-8090.

If you are experiencing depression and need support, please call the National Depressive/Manic-Depressive Association Hotline at 1-800-826-3632 or the Crisis Call Center’s 24-hour hotline at 1-775-784-8090.

If you are struggling with substance abuse, please call the SAMHSA National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for free and confidential information.

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