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Flagstaff City Council approves $2.5 million contract for mobile alternate response unit

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Council In Person

Members of the Flagstaff City Council.

The Flagstaff City Council approved a $2.5 million contract with Terros Health to develop and employ an alternate response mobile unit in the city.

Elected officials and city staff discussed the contract during Tuesday night’s city council meeting, noting strong support from local first responders. The motion for council approval was passed unanimously.

“This is so exciting,” Councilmember Adam Shimoni said. “I can't think of a better partner to work with, and I'm so proud of our city team and leadership for having the vision and willpower to get us to this point.”

The unit will consist of one behavioral specialist and either a firefighter or emergency medical technician, working together out of a van equipped with specialized equipment to conduct proactive outreach and response to 911 calls.

Calls for service will be dispatched through the Flagstaff Police Department’s 911 call center. The mobile response unit will run for 10 hours a day starting at 10 a.m. and ending at 8 p.m. when implemented. City officials said the unit is targeting an early 2022 launch.

Terros Health is a healthcare company specializing in crisis services, mental health and substance abuse treatment. The organization has previously offered crisis services in Coconino County and throughout Arizona.

Oversight of the project will be provided by Terros Health officials and informed by data collected during operations, Deputy City Manager Shannon Anderson said.

The approved service contract runs for three years and gives the city the option to renew the contract for an additional two years. The annual expense each year ranges from about $400,000 to $600,000 and includes personnel and equipment costs.

The contract comes as the city continues to seek solutions to rising calls for service related to public intoxication, behavioral crisis and mental health. The mobile response unit projects to reduce overall calls for service handled by fire and police by 5% to 10%.

And the unit will come better equipped to handle those calls, officials with both the fire and police department say.

The van will provide enough space for basic life safety response, as well as comfort items such as water and snacks, emergency clothing, toiletries, blankets and cultural items like abalone shells, sage and cedar, according to city officials.

“We recognize that we live in a very diverse community,” Bryan Gest, Terros Health’s director of Northern Arizona Crisis Services, told city council. “We strive to have a workforce that represents the community we serve. We also strive to have staff that have experience working with diverse cultures.”

The vehicle also functions to transport individuals to care at nearby shelters or medical facilities.

Anderson said the coordination of the city’s alternate response efforts were assisted by a team of community members and city officials, including the city attorney, police chief, fire chief and councilmembers.

In February, the team created a request for proposal (RFP) soliciting alternate response services from local providers either in the form of a mobile unit, a care center, or both.

A separate evaluation committee, including four city staff members, an indigenous coordinator, a local service provider and a local psychiatrist, was formed by the city to review the service proposals from the RFP. The committee recommended the contract with Terros Health.

Correction: This article has been updated to reflect a quote from Bryan Hest, who was identified as Brian Dement.

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