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Mental Health Crisis Response Program Expands to Five Communities

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Media Contact: Jennifer Ciaccia: (216) 250-5863;


Grants from Cuyahoga County, GUND Foundation, others provide funding to enable growth of program

CUYAHOGA COUNTY, OH - Today, Cuyahoga County Executive Ronayne and the mayors of five eastern suburbs announced a collaborative crisis response program to better serve people with mental health needs. Leaders from the mental health, law enforcement, emergency response, and funding communities attended the news conference at Shaker Heights Fire Station 1.

The mental health response program is called First CALL (for Crisis Assistance and Local Linkage). It embeds a full-time social worker with police and fire departments to improve the response to those suffering from a mental health crisis. The pilot program started in Shaker Heights in 2022. Thanks to funding, Cleveland Heights, University Heights, Richmond Heights, and South Euclid will join the effort.

“By incorporating mental health professionals into crisis response teams, we can achieve more compassionate, effective, and safer outcomes for those in need of help. This approach not only improves the safety of our first responders but also fosters hope in our community,” said Cuyahoga County Executive Chris Ronayne. “Regional collaboration will allow us to build on Shaker Heights’ blueprint while working together to ensure that Cuyahoga County residents continue to receive the best services.”

For the first two years, the program will be funded by grants provided by the following, with additional support from the partner cities:

  • $523,131 from the Alcohol, Drug Addition & Mental Health Services (ADAMHS) Board of Cuyahoga County
  • $399,846 from the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS Office) of the U.S. Department of Justice.
  • $200,000 from the George Gund Foundation
  • $75,000 from Cuyahoga County

Additional grant funding is expected.

In recent years, communities across the country have been struggling to find ways to better respond to calls involving people with mental health issues.

“We support the CALL program and are pleased to be a major funder of its expansion,” said Scott Osiecki, CEO of the ADAMHS Board of Cuyahoga County. “This partnership highlights the importance of providing crisis and follow-up treatment, as well as recovery support services, to individuals when they need it most and where they are. By intervening early, these teams help promote treatment, recovery and demonstrate the community’s commitment to taking mental health seriously, with the care of the individual in mind.”

The CALL program is expected to begin in early summer. It will add four licensed mental health professionals and three peer support workers, who, along with the current Shaker Heights social worker, will cover all five communities. In addition, a licensed mental health professional will be assigned to Chagrin Valley Dispatch, the joint dispatch center serving all five communities. Recovery Resources, a program of the MetroHealth System, will staff the additional mental health professionals. The trained peer support personnel, each of whom has received mental health services, will work under the supervision of licensed mental health professionals.

The Shaker Heights program has been a success from the start. The city hired a licensed social worker as a full-time employee, embedded with first responders. The social worker responds to mental health crisis calls, engaging with the person in crisis and the first responders on scene to determine the best course of action. To ensure the safety of clinicians as well as first responders, social workers and peer support workers will not enter a scene or complete a follow-up visit if there are safety concerns. In 2023, the Shaker program had 645 referrals and completed 730 follow-ups.

“We are tremendously grateful for the support of these funders who understand the need for mental health care and the value of having mental health professionals available to respond alongside our police and firefighters/paramedics,” said Shaker Heights Mayor David E. Weiss. “In addition to these funders, we are also grateful for ongoing partnerships with the MetroHealth System and its Recovery Resources for providing clinician staffing, and with Chagrin Valley Dispatch, for supporting this effort.”

“Our first responders have provided exceptional service in response to emergencies using specific protocols based on their training and education,” said Seona Goerndt, President and CEO of Recovery Resources. “However, the needs of our community have evolved as rates of anxiety, depression and substance use continue to increase at an alarming rate. That is why initiatives such as CALL are so important - we are adding to the first responder team by leveraging licensed mental health professionals whose expertise is in assisting individuals in crisis and linking them to the best resources in the community.”

“Our goal in Cleveland Heights is to provide the best possible response whenever someone calls 911 for help,” said Cleveland Heights Mayor Kahlil Seren. “CALL will help make our residents and our first responders safer and healthier by ensuring we meet the needs of people experiencing mental health crises and connect them to the care they need.”

“Richmond Heights is eager to enhance our collaborative ties with neighboring communities and our ability to implement a crisis intervention model effectively in our region,” said Richmond Heights Mayor Kim Thomas. “We aim to improve handling crisis-related service calls as they arise, focusing on reducing and preventing such calls through proactive social service and mental health interventions. Our goal is to enhance outcomes for individuals in crisis, providing more efficient responses to mental health and crisis calls. By diverting individuals in crisis towards appropriate services, we aim to address their needs proactively, mitigating the need for emergency response or judicial system involvement. This program will significantly impact the delivery of policing and mental health services across our communities, ultimately saving lives.”

"I am proud of South Euclid's legacy of innovation and collaboration to address local and regional issues,” said South Euclid Mayor Georgine Welo. “For over two decades, we have prioritized regional cooperation to improve our region by working on creative solutions with neighboring communities and implementing programs that positively impact our residents. With the launch of the Regional Mental Health Response Program, we are taking a bold step forward in reimagining public safety. By integrating these mental health and crisis support solutions into our public safety programs, we are not only addressing mental health crisis calls more effectively, but also fostering a safer, healthier, and more resilient community for all."

“Like all cities, University Heights has its share of folks who call 9-1-1 for want of another resource to get them the help they really need,” said University Heights Mayor Michael Brennan. “University Heights and the other Heights-Hillcrest cities will be better equipped to meet those needs, and better serve our community and our constituents.”

View the First Call program for more information.



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