Birmingham, township votes to expand CoRe
By Grace Lovins and Kevin Elliott
Both the Birmingham City Commission and the Bloomfield Township Board of Trustees voted on Monday, November 14, to expand the Mental Health Co-Response Team (CoRe), allowing the program to hire a second full-time mental health clinician and spread its reach and involvement to include the city of Rochester.
The Mental Health Co-Response Team, called CoRE, is partnership between law enforcement and mental health professionals in order to better serve the people in the community suffering from a mental health crisis, Birmingham Police Chief Mark Clemence explained in May to the Birmingham City Commission in a memo, noting that law enforcement “has and continues to be the primary first responders to people in crisis. With CoRE, a mental health clinician co-responds to crisis calls for service in the field with police officers.”
The team is a shared resource among Birmingham, Bloomfield Township and Auburn Hills that partners law enforcement and mental health professionals to better serve people in the community suffering from mental health crisis. The program is oversaw by the Oakland Community Health Network, which is the Community Mental Health Service Program and Prepaid Inpatient Health Plan responsible for providing behavioral health services to more than 23,000 individuals with developmental disabilities, mental illness and substance abuse in Oakland County.
In June of this year, the commission passed a resolution to approve gap funding for the CoRe program while the “Community Projects” federal grant was being processed, as well as passed a letter of commitment that stated resources would be dedicated to the continuation and expansion of the program including a second clinician and expanding to Rochester. Currently, the three original communities have shared social worker Hilary Nusbaum, who has managed the program on her own along with officers. The addition of Rochester will permit the addition of a second trained program clinician.
Since its creation in September of 2022, the team has conducted 624 referrals, of which 221were located in Bloomfield Township, said Police Chief James Gallagher said. Of those cases, he said about 30 were volunteer referrals, and 47 were left under family care.
Federal pandemic relief funds have been received and will be used to help fund the program, he said.
“That’s a big deal,” Gallagher said of the family-care referrals. “If we can leave them home with family and not tie up the jail or hospital, then (the clinician) follows up with them.”
The Birmingham city commission held little discussion over the resolution, but commissioner Andrew Haig questioned if the program had metrics that showed improvements or the success rates of those who go through the program. “Is there anything that can actually show where we see reductions in reoccurrences or how do we measure success?” Haig asked.
Chris Cook, CoRe coordinator and investigative captain with the Birmingham Police Department, said the program keeps track of all the forms and creates a quarterly report that shows what their numbers are. Cook also noted that they have partnered with Wayne State University in Detroit, and they are taking all the numbers from the inception of the program in December and following the individuals through the process of treatment. The university is also using the numbers from 2021 to see if there were any reductions.
Mayor pro tem Elaine McLain asked how the referral process, if there is one, worked. Cook explained that if someone were seeking help for an individual with mental health issues called the Birmingham Police Department, the co-responder on duty will respond to the scene with the officer. He notes that, if there was an individual that may be dealing with a mental health issue, they can be reached at the police department’s dispatch number.
The Birmingham commission voted unanimously to approve the second interlocal agreement for CoRE, expanding the program to include the city of Rochester and create a new full-time clinician position. In Bloomfield Township, trustees voted unanimously to approve the agreement with treasurer Brian Kepes and tustee Neal Barnett absent.