City of South Bend hosts community meeting on crisis response procedures

Published: Sep. 6, 2022 at 11:32 PM EDT
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. (WNDU) - The City of South Bend hosted a Community Action Group meeting Tuesday.

People gathered at Brown Community Learning Center to talk about crisis response procedures.

This, coming after the death of 51-year-old Dante Kittrell, who was shot by officers back in July, after he pointed what appeared to be a handgun at those officers.

Kittrell reportedly struggled with mental health issues, and while negotiators tried deescalating the situation for nearly 40 minutes, they were unsuccessful.

Faith and city leaders said they support the police department, but want to be able to offer more assistance moving forward.

Oaklawn, for example, is building its mobile crisis unit and the 911 Dispatch Center plans to work with them.

“We’ve brought our law enforcement partners in, our medical directors, fire and EMS and devised a plan; whereby, in certain situations, we will transfer people in crisis to the mobile crisis team while they are working Monday through Friday, 8-5. After that we will transfer them to 988,” said Deputy Director of Operations with the St. Joseph County 911, Nancy Lockhart.

They also want a licensed mental health counselor working in the 911 Center.

Meantime, the St. Joseph County Health Department plans to implement a behavioral crisis facility, which would be located at Epworth.

Instead of taking an individual to the jail or emergency room, they would receive mental health services at the crisis facility.

“And what we are proposing here is a new facility that is staffed specifically with individuals skilled in the care of the individuals in crisis and are able to deliver that care compassionately,” said Health Officer with the St. Joseph County Department of Health, Bob Einterz.

Funding would come from several places.

“There’s very broad support for this. The St. Joseph County Sheriff’s Department, the South Bend Police Department, Oaklawn, the two major hospital systems...This behavioral crisis facility resonates across political lines, resonates across geographic lines. It’s clearly something that we need as a community to improve the health of our community,” said Einterz.

They hope to implement it sometime next year.

During small group discussions, people made comments like, “It’s important to have a strong partnership between law enforcement and mental health professionals.”