A great day in Gary: Common Council unanimously votes to fund mobile mental health unit
NWI Times – Molly DeVore
March 9, 2023
Marcella DeLavallade-Amos lost her only child in 2012 to a police shooting.
“My son was shot in his shoulder, his thigh, his hand, his heart, his lungs, and his spine was shattered,” she told the Gary Common Council on Tuesday.
DeLavallade-Amos’ son, who was diagnosed with schizophrenia in 2008, was killed during a mental illness wellness check.
“I truly believe that if there had been mobile mental health teams available in 2012, that my son would still be alive today,” she said. “I don’t want to see other families go through the horror of what my family and I had to go through and are still going through.”
DeLavallade-Amos was one of about 10 people who spoke in favor of funding a mobile mental health crisis response team. When the council unanimously approved $1.5 million for the initiative, the crowded room erupted in cheers.
The idea for a mobile mental health unit came out of the list of recommendations created by the Gary Police Reform Commission in 2021. The mobile mental health team is envisioned as a clinician-led model, where family members, teachers and anyone else who sees someone in crisis can call a special number and be referred to the mental health team.
“We expect that this program will reduce the role of law enforcement in handling nonviolent mental health issues,” said Charlotte Hawkins, co-chair of the Interfaith Action Network. “We expect to see fewer of our youth sent to detention when what they really need is mental health practitioners.”
DeLavallade-Amos said Gary can serve as a model for other communities.
“We know that the safest communities are not the ones with the most police in them,” said Councilwoman Lori Latham, D-at large. “The safest communities are the ones that treat the whole person, that have the best jobs, the best educational opportunities, the best public health services.
“So while this is a celebration, it is also a challenge to keep going, keep organizing, and let’s keep moving forward and building those critical services.”