The annual Police Department report suggested that mental health issues were exploding in Hopkins.
According to the report, the number of calls for people with emotional or mental health issues surged by 20 percent between 2011 and 2012. Couple that with the ongoing coverage of mental health and firearms in the wake of the Sandy Hook school shooting, and Hopkins could come across as a frightening place to be.
In this case, though, the numbers are misleading.
Hopkins’ boom in mental health cases is really a quirk related to the city’s decision to close its own dispatch center and transition to Hennepin County dispatch, which it did in August 2012.
With that transition, Hopkins started using Hennepin County’s method of coding calls. Reports that were once labeled as “welfare checks,” for example, now fell under the mental health category, said Police Sgt. Michael Glassberg, who added that he couldn’t really say that mental health calls are up.
Guns have not proven to be an issue either: “We have not run into a problem with mentally ill people having firearms,” Glassberg said.
That doesn’t mean mental health calls aren’t an issue. Hopkins has a significant population of people with mental illness because it is a walkable community with access to transit and has organizations that serve them like Vail Place, Glassberg said.
These types of calls aren’t the easy ones either. The Police Department sends at least two officers to these calls, the same as it does for domestic disturbances and drunk problems.
“Responding to someone that’s in some type of crisis situation can be very dangerous for officers,” Glassberg said.
Most of the officers have received crisis intervention training. When a call comes in, they approach the subject calmly, explain why they’re there and try to restore calm. Because officers encounter the same people multiple times, they may be able to build a rapport and recognize the help they need.
Glassberg said that in the past, people with mental illness may have been arrested or allowed to go on their way. Now officials do better at getting them into treatment.
“Our goal going into these situations is to defuse it immediately,” he said. “I think society is doing a better job of diagnosing it and watching for it.”