Linden Neighborhood Conversation

Melanie Crabill
Director of Media Relations
[email protected]

Kevin Kilbane
Director of Communications
[email protected]

Media Advisory
News Date: July 29, 2021

City of Columbus, Community Leaders Showcase Success of Alternative Response Pilot Program

Mayor Andrew J. Ginther today joined City Council President Shannon Hardin and leaders from Public Safety and Public Health to highlight the effectiveness of the Alternative Response Pilot Program, which aims to provide more robust and precise emergency-response experiences citywide while reducing reliance on police and fire forces in matters where other city or social services are better suited to resolve the situation. 

The six-week pilot, announced by Mayor Ginther in May 2021, imbedded a "Triage Pod" consisting of a social worker, emergency communications dispatcher and paramedic in 9-1-1 dispatch to triage calls involving mental health, addiction and other social determinants of health. The first two weeks of the program focused on developing criteria and polices for transferring calls to the Pod, training for staff members and testing technology. The Pod managed live calls during weeks three through six. Data from the pilot was collected over a span of 72 operational hours from June 7 - July 2, 2021.

Of the calls received by the Pod, 62.5% did not require an immediate police or fire dispatch. Forty-eight percent were either fully resolved by the Pod or redirected to local community resources. For the calls that were resolved without police or fire dispatch, zero called back to 9-1-1 or required dispatch within 24 hours of their initial contact. When calls required a law enforcement response, the Pod actively communicated with first responders, providing de-escalation and pre-arrival information to help ensure a successful outcome. 

"What this program so clearly demonstrates is the need to strengthen and diversify our front-line responses so that police officers can focus on what they were always intended to do: address violent crime and keep our neighborhoods safe," said Mayor Ginther. "There is no ‘one-size-fits-all approach’ to public health and safety. We must expand our resources and expertise to better reflect the needs of our community and ensure that even more people are receiving the right care in the right amount of time.”

“Society has long asked safety officers to answer every problem in our community, whether it is a car crash, homelessness or violence,” said Council President Hardin. “This pilot led to more follow-up for residents in need of resources, no one going to jail, and a better deployment of taxpayer dollars. The city will continue making improvements to build out this program through partnerships, research and iteration.”

Plans are underway to expand the Pod’s hours of operation and build additional triage and follow-up units. Staff also continues to collect and analyze data to further inform expansion efforts.