I have often said that the Lincoln Police Department is one of the largest providers of emergency mental health services in the community. You can add Lincoln Fire & Rescue to that claim, as well. One of the things I've learned in the past two years is that our police officers and firefighter/paramedics are rubbing shoulders with many of the same people, such as the denizens of A beat.
Over the weekend, someone challenged my assertion that this is a growing problem. I put together the data from LPD's records management system yesterday, querying each year since 2001 for two incident codes: 56400 and 56466. These two codes describe mental health cases to which police officers were dispatched. Here's what I found: there has been consistent, steady growth, from 1,276 incidents in 2001 to 2,294 last year. That is an 80% increase.
Lincoln's population, however, has increased since 2001, too. To be specific, there are 35,004 more souls in the Capital City today than in 2001. If you calculate the rate of mental health dispatches per 100,000 population, it has grown from 554 to 864. Thus the population-adjusted increase in mental health calls is 56%. That is still a mighty large increase, even when population is taken into account.
No two ways about it: the cops and paramedics are called in mental health crises far more frequently today than in the past.