PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — The Providence police last year dealt with a huge increase in the number of calls for people going through a mental health crisis, which police and experts say was in large part because of the coronavirus pandemic.
City police responded to 339 so-called mental health incidents in 2020, up from 201 in 2019 and 177 in 2018, WPRI-TV reported.
Police chief Col. Hugh Clements said “the pandemic threw things amok.”
“People felt a lot of anxiety, a lot of depression,” he said. “People’s normal lives were thrown into a tailspin, there has been a lot of isolation.”
The department has since 2010 worked with The Providence Center, a mental health and addiction treatment provider run by Care New England, to assist with mental health calls.
“The pandemic, along with associated isolation and loss, and other factors, contributed to especially high rates of anxiety, depression, and substance abuse among other issues,” Jacqueline Mancini-Geer, the center's director of acute care said.
Grants that fund clinicians to assist police are about to expire, Clements said, and he has been working to secure additional resources.
“During this time where we have the greatest need, ironically, those grants are ready to run out,” he said.