New emergency number to launch this summer to help with mental health calls

TULSA, Okla. — Metal health calls to 911 have increased since the start of the pandemic, city officials have said.

Tulsa police say 1 in 10 calls to 911 are mental health situations.

Demita Kinard, TPD’s Community Mental Health Officer, said that sometimes it can be difficult to know it’s mental health call.

“The person doesn’t call and say, ‘Hey, I’m here hallucinating and I need somebody here to help me feel better,’ no they might call and say, ‘I hear people in my attic,’ so it goes in as a burglary,” Kinard said.

Tulsa’s Community Response Team responds to mental health calls.

It’s made up of people from Tulsa Police and Fire Departments, Family and Children’s Services and Community Psychiatric Emergency Services (COPES).

Amanda Bradley, COPES Associate Chief Programs Director, said mental health calls require a delicate approach.

“When working with someone in a mental health crisis, it’s very important to build repour with them quickly,” Bradley said. “And you do that through engagement, sensitivity, respect, dignity, kindness, authenticity to work into being able to have a conversation.”

Tulsa County currently has one team to respond to mental health calls. They say they have been stretched thin as they try to respond to an ever increasing call load.

Soon a new emergency number will launch, 988. When someone is in a mental health crisis, they or someone else can call 988 instead of 911 to get a response targeted to mental health.

The new 988 number should launch sometime this summer.