Anti Police-Terror Project Launches Mental Health First Oakland

A new model for non-police response to mental health crises now available in Oakland

Defund the police, Oakland California
Defund the police, Oakland California. | Photo: Brooke Anderson Photography

By Anti Police-Terror Project – Press Release

Oakland, Calif. — Today, 8/28/20, the Anti Police-Terror Project (APTP) launched Mental Health First Oakland (MH First), a new model for non-police response to mental health crises. The service will provide a police-free emergency support service to folks in Oakland experiencing a mental health crisis. It will be available in the form of a free hotline on 510-999-9MH1 on Friday & Saturday nights from 8pm to 8am, when there are currently no other mental health support options available.

MH First Oakland leads with the principle that police should not be involved when responding to a mental health crisis unless asked by mental health responders as a last resort. Crisis response services should support people through quality follow up and on-going care regardless of their ability to pay. Oakland will be the second city now operating the MH First program. MH First will respond to mental health crises including, but not limited to, psychiatric emergencies, substance use disorder support, and  domestic violence and intimate partner violence situations.

In January, the Anti Police-Terror Project Sacramento chapter launched MH First Sacramento. MH First Oakland has already received strong community support.

“Police are not adequately trained to deal with people in mental health crises.” said Daniela Kantorova, one of the lead organizers of MH First Oakland, “It’s more logical and compassionate to meet a mental health crisis with a mental health first responder, not an armed police officer.” 

The core team of approximately 12 volunteers is staffed with impacted community members, and medical and mental health professionals. In addition to the core team, there will be 20 additional volunteers. The core team and volunteers will provide a humane response to those experiencing a mental health crisis. MH First is a response to the alarming statistic that at least 1 in 4 fatal law enforcement encounters involves an individual with mental illness.

MH First Oakland will be operated by APTP’s Daniela Kantorova and Cat Brooks. Daniela is a licensed Clinical Psychologist and president of Psychologists for Social Responsibility. Cat is the co-founder of APTP and the Executive Director of the Justice Teams Network, a statewide network of grassroots activist organizations fighting state violence in California.

“COVID-19 has spotlighted racial & ethnic disparities in access to behavioral health care, leaving Black & Brown people facing a double jeopardy of both poor access to general health care and mental health services.” said Cat Brooks, co-founder of APTP and MH First Oakland project organizer, Brooks continued: “Oakland has a reputation for leading the nation in countering state sanctioned violence. MH First Oakland offers our communities a safe alternative to calling the cops.”

Since launching MH First in Sacramento in January 2020, Anti Police-Terror Project has received numerous requests from organizers across the country who are interested in rolling out this non-police alternative to a mental health crisis in their city.

Anti Police-Terror Project is a Black-led, multi-racial, intergenerational coalition that seeks to build a replicable and sustainable model to eradicate police terror in communities of color. We support families surviving police terror in their fight for justice, documenting police abuses and connecting impacted families and community members with resources, legal referrals, and opportunities for healing.

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