Co-Responder Pilot Program Yielding Early Success

Communications Director

Kristin Farley
[email protected]
(865) 215-2589

400 Main St., Room 691
Knoxville, TN 37902

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Co-Responder Pilot Program Yielding Early Success

Posted: 12/07/2020
The Knoxville Police Department and McNabb Center are pleased to announce that the co-responder pilot program is underway and already beginning to yield success in assisting individuals facing mental illness or substance use struggles. The pilot program between the KPD and the McNabb Center pairs a master's level behavioral health specialist alongside a specially-trained KPD officer in order to respond to emergency calls that present a behavioral health need.

By pairing the specialist with a KPD officer, the co-responder team is able to assess individuals' behavioral health needs in real time while in service and help connect those individuals with immediate access to services.

"We have seen several success stories in the short time since the co-responder program has been up and running,” said KPD Chief of Police Eve Thomas. “That tandem unit has addressed multiple calls with individuals experiencing a mental health crisis or substance abuse issues, and subsequently they have been able to divert those individuals from jail to much-needed services. Though the program remains in its infancy stages, we feel that it will continue to allow the KPD to provide more appropriate services to residents in our community.”

This fall, supported by a contract with the City of Knoxville, the McNabb Center hired a behavioral health specialist to respond to calls with KPD officer Thomas Clinton. Clinton, who was recently promoted to Sergeant, was chosen to assist in the launch of that program due to his experience as a member of the regional Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) board and from serving in the field for the past four years as the KPD’s Homeless Outreach Coordinator.

"A behavioral health specialist brings a unique perspective to the partnership with Knoxville Police Department," said Candace Allen, senior director of adult intensive outpatient services for the McNabb Center. "We know how important it is to decriminalize mental illness and addictions and to provide referrals to treatment in lieu of jail whenever appropriate. We are grateful for the opportunity to work with KPD to affect change in our community."

The co-responder team began working in the field together in October. Over the first month and a half of the program, the co-responder team has responded to nearly 40 calls for service. The call types have varied, as the team has assisted 19 individuals with suicide ideation, conducted 12 welfare checks, and even responded to assist an individual in crisis following a reported shooting. The co-responder team has spent an average of just over an hour on each call, and also conducted 38 follow-ups.

The McNabb Center is the region’s leading nonprofit provider of mental health, substance use, social and victim services. By focusing on an individual’s “Well Mind, Well Being,” the Center provides a quality and compassionate approach to care from infancy through adulthood. Since 1948, the Center has proudly served individuals with the most needs and fewest resources. Today, the McNabb Center delivers support to more than 30,000 people throughout East Tennessee each year. For more information, visit or call 1-800-255-9711.

The KPD-McNabb Co-Response Pilot was initiated by the City of Knoxville this summer as an early step in testing alternative models for responding to the more than 270,000 calls for service that KPD receives each year. The co-response model is fully endorsed by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and the Crisis Intervention Team International, Inc. (CIT), and was developed to reflect successful practices used in other U.S. communities. With leadership by Mayor Indya Kincannon and Chief Thomas, the City continues to evaluate additional response models, as well as other strategies that can strengthen public safety and meet the needs of Knoxville residents and neighborhoods.