Louisville downtown skyline closeup view with the Ohio River.
Louisville downtown skyline

A team of UofL researchers is developing a pilot program for Louisville Metro government that will divert a portion of 911 calls to health, behavioral health and ancillary services. 

“Events of 2020 represent a public demand for change, and the process of healing requires re-conceptualizing public safety and emergency response systems in a way that honors the needs and wishes of the community and maximizes use of already limited resources,” said Susan Buchino, assistant professor, UofL School of Public Health and Information Sciences. “One such way is to provide social and clinical support services as an alternative or auxiliary to police and EMS.”

Susan Buchino
Susan Buchino

Buchino, who also serves as assistant director of the Commonwealth Institute of Kentucky, says the Louisville Metro alternative responder program hopes to reduce incidents of confrontation and demands on the Louisville Metro Police Department, as well as create a positive health impact and fiscal savings. The team will investigate national best practices and analyze local data to create a model designed specifically for Louisville. 

Tony Zipple, SPHIS executive-in-residence, along with other Commonwealth Scholars, are working with Buchino. The region’s community mental health center, Seven Counties Services Inc., is partnering with the SPHIS team in planning Louisville’s model, offering mental health and substance abuse treatment expertise. The Spalding University School of Social Work also is collaborating on the project.

The planning process includes seeking the input of community members, as well as leaders from multiple government agencies, behavioral health and social service providers, and representatives from advocacy organizations.

“Transparency and community engagement around the planning process is crucial,” said Buchino. “We are including multiple partners to understand how they perceive this project and how it fits into our community and their organization’s other ongoing work.”

The team is consulting with officials in Eugene, Oregon, who implemented an evidence-based model for deflection called Crisis Assistance Helping Out On The Streets (CAHOOTS). In this model, the Eugene Police Department partnered with White Bird Clinic, a local Federally Qualified Health Center that offers a full range of medical, dental and behavioral health services, as well as drug and alcohol treatment.

Researchers expect to complete a final report later this summer which will include:

  • Louisville alternative model design, including an operating model for services
  • Comprehensive training materials
  • Implementation and evaluation plans
  • Budget and sustainability plan
  • Cost-benefit forecast