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July 6, 2023

City of Worcester launches pilot crisis response program

A large light-colored brick building with two curved staircases leading up to the entrance and a pointed tower coming from the center. PHOTO | Timothy Doyle Worcester City Hall

The City of Worcester is launching a pilot program to test a new crisis response model for emergencies involving mental health and substance abuse components. 

The program, called Mental Health Community Mobile Crisis Response Pilot, was developed by UMass Memorial Health affiliate Community Healthlink, and is funded by the city, according to a Wednesday press release from the Office of City Manager. 

The model will use crisis teams to respond to emergencies, consisting of mental health clinicians, case managers, and peer educators. The teams will be dispatched to de-escalate crises on site while stabilizing individuals. The team will then connect the individual in crisis to relevant mental health or substance abuse resources, according to the press release. 

“We strongly believe this program will help improve the efficacy of response to and treatment of individuals in our City who are experiencing crisis,” said City Manager Eric Batista in the press release. 

Clinicians will work out of Community Healthlink offices on Jaques Ave. from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. to start the launch of the pilot. Dispatchers who receive 911 calls will dispatch the appropriate emergency services based on location and the nature of the call, according to the press release.

“Together, we are building the program the right way to deliver equitable and effective care to respond to people in crisis. I believe this is a transformational program for the City, and CHL is proud to be a part of it,” said Gordon Benson, interim CHL president.

Since April, three CHL substance abuse programs have been suspended, and Worcester city councilors are demanding action from the organization

The city of Worcester and Worcester County have seen an uptick in opioid-related deaths in the past year, outpacing most areas in the state.

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