The Tulsa Police Department has a new way to help citizens with mental health crises.
A new initiative means a crisis counselor will be at the 911 dispatch center a few days a week to connect callers in a mental health crisis to the help they need, instead of just law enforcement.
Zack Stoycoff is the Executive Director of the Healthy Minds Policy initiative, a Tulsa-based organization aimed at gathering mental health research and creating change. He said mental health was already a huge issue in Oklahoma before COVID-19.
"COVID hasn't changed what we've needed to do, COVID has increased the imperative for it. We need it more now," said Stoycoff.
Stoycoff brought research to Tulsa City Council members Wednesday. He said nearly 40% of Oklahoma adults experienced anxiety or depression symptoms in July.
He said COVID-19 could increase childhood mental health issues by 95% and contribute to more than 260 suicide and overdose deaths from April of this year to next April.
"People are coming together, Tulsa is coming together, and realizing this is a big need," Stoycoff said.
Stoycoff said those numbers can change with prevention and ongoing care.
The newest program, launched this month, adds a crisis counselor to the Tulsa 911 dispatch center through COPES, an emergency response line with Family and Child Services.
Amanda Bradley with COPES said many times people need much more than law enforcement help and they call 911 with no idea where else to turn.
"By a mental health profession being there, we can do the follow up care, link them to services, and advocate on their behalf," Bradley said.
Right now, a crisis counselor will be at the dispatch center twice a week and they hope to eventually see someone there daily.
If you or someone you know needs help, you can call the COPES Crisis line 24/7 at (918) 744-4800.