More than 3,000.

That’s how many times Greensboro’s Behavioral Health Response Team, or BHRT, responded to calls for service from residents experiencing mental health crises in 2023. It’s a huge increase from 2022, when the team responded to more than 1,200 calls.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and to celebrate this, the team is gearing up for an event at the end of this month. People can place a request for a member of BHRT to visit their business, residence or anywhere within Greensboro city limits on May 29 to help people “better understand” the team’s “purpose, goals, and processes,” per a city press release. Those interested should text (336) 430-4121 by 5 p.m. on May 23 to schedule a visit.

BHRT falls under the purview of the city’s Office of Community Safety. In an interview with TCB, the office’s director, Latisha McNeil, explained that the team is heavily utilized.

“It has been much more than what was expected. The need exceeds our capacity,” she said. 

BHRT is a co-response team, meaning that Greensboro Police Department police officers are partnered with a team of licensed clinicians and crisis counselors. A police-free response team in Winston-Salem called the BEAR Team responds to non-violent mental health calls.

In October, TCB spoke with GPD’s Police Chief John Thompson, who said that he “would like to expand” BHRT so they can offer a “non-police response to mental-health calls.” However, this hasn’t been implemented yet.

According to the city’s website, the mental health side of the team is currently made up of eight team members.

People struggling with their mental health are disproportionately criminalized across the US compared to their peers without a history of mental illness. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, mental illness affects 18 percent of the general population. However, an estimated 44 percent of those jailed and 37 percent of those imprisoned have a mental illness. Teams such as BHRT and BEAR can help divert people from the criminal justice system and toward avenues that can offer them treatment, rather than defaulting to punishment.

It’s budget season, and depending on how all the funding shakes out, the team could expand. McNeil has already asked for more funding to support additional staff.

“We’re anticipating that we’ll get some positions to increase staffing,” she added.

Here are the city’s recommendations for how someone in crisis can access BHRT services:

1. For an urgent crisis, call 911 and request they send BHRT.

2. Ask a Greensboro police officer to refer you to BHRT.

3. Visit GPD’s police headquarters at 100 Police Plaza and ask to speak to a BHRT counselor.

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