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KPD officer and social worker juggles hundreds of mental-health cases, asking for more help

A Knoxville Police officer and a social worker with the Helen Ross McNabb Center makes up the team and responds exclusively to mental health or substance abuse calls.
Updated: May. 18, 2021 at 6:56 PM EDT
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - The City of Knoxville’s co-response team needs help.

A Knoxville Police officer and a social worker with the Helen Ross McNabb Center makes up the team and responds exclusively to mental health or substance abuse calls. Sergeant Thomas Clinton is the only officer a part of the pilot program and said the team has worked more than 200 cases since October and could get up to seven to eight calls a day.

“We’re missing calls because we’re so busy sometimes,” Clinton said.

Instead of an arrest, the two-person team helps to admit people to the hospital or in mental care instead.

“Anytime that we can prevent anyone from harming themselves is a win for us,” Clinton said.

Leann Human-Hilliard with the McNabb Center told WVLT News they’re ready to expand the program and provide more social workers.

Meanwhile, Mayor Indya Kincannon has set aside $400,000 in her 2021-22 budget to assign three officers to the program. She will need support from city council who will vote on the budget May 18th.

Councilwoman Amelia Parker announced she will ask the council to reserve the $400,000 from KPD’S budget until the public can respond to the expiring pilot program.

The program is set to end in July unless the council agrees to officially adopt the service for up to a year.

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