Elected officials in Burlington say problems associated with mental illness are now approaching crisis mode in Vermont’s largest city, and the time to come up with a plan to address them.
A resolution shared during Tuesday’s meeting of the Burlington Police Commission looks to bring stakeholders together to discuss possible solutions.
“I think we’re all in a position right now to have a deeper understanding than perhaps we did, about what stress can mean and what those kinds of burden can mean,” said Acting Police Chief Jon Murad.
Murad says in 2019, mental health calls comprised about 5% of the police department’s calls. Last year, it was up to 9%.
Murad says officers are not simply not equipped to handle people in a mental health crisis.
“It’s not just about police,” he said. “Because frankly, police alone cannot address this issue. It’s more complicated and larger than that.”
“Sarah Carpenter, Ward 4 City Councilor, said Many of the city’s public safety challenges are related to unsupported residents and visitors with mental health issues.
Carpenter says the council set aside money in this year’s budget to create a crisis intervention program, but they lack a provider.
“That’s I think the call for the summit, to say ‘You’re the service providers, how can the city work closer with you?'” Carpenter said. “We can’t fill that role, nor should we fill that role, but the burden and often the outcome on the public safety end lands right square in our lap.”