Oakland Must Establish MACRO—an Alternative to Leading with Police for Mental Health Crises Response—Immediately
Oakland residents, labor and elected officials are calling on the City Of Oakland to immediately implement this program within the next six months
Oakland – A broad coalition of residents, community organizations and labor groups are calling on the Oakland City Council to vote Tuesday afternoon in support of a program that ensures Oaklanders have access to mental health services during non-violent emergencies. The community coalition is calling for the Mobile Assistance Community Responders of Oakland (MACRO) program to be established as an official city program within the next six months. The program will focus on redirecting calls to non-violent emergencies to a team of mental health professionals by increasing access to services. As 50% of police killings occur during a mental health crisis, it is clear that a new system that relies on community expertise must be created to respond to mental health crises.
“The intersection of mental health crisis, Blackness and law enforcement is too often a deadly cocktail for Black and Brown people going through a mental health crisis in Oakland,” said Cat Brooks, co-founder of the Anti Police-Terror Project and the Executive Director of the Justice Teams Network. “The Anti Police-Terror Project currently provides free non police services to folks experiencing mental health crises, substance abuse issues and domestic violence. in the city, through the Mental Health First (MH1) program. The success of MH First makes clear the essential nature of this service, and by bringing MACRO in house more Oaklanders will be able to use this tried-and-tested model.”
Oakland currently does not provide 24/7 mental health support services for its residents, leaving law enforcement as first responders. Far too often, this results in incarceration, violence, or death for a person in crisis, since Oaklanders have no option except to call the police. Further, law enforcement does not receive adequate training to respond to crises, as training too often teaches police officers to use force to neutralize a “target” as quickly as possible. Yet those in crisis may be unable to understand instructions or comply quickly enough, leading to unnecessary use of force.
The Anti Police-Terror Project began demanding the redirection of police funds for adequate mental health services five years ago, igniting a conversation in Oakland that ultimately resulted in the development of MACRO, which remains in need of actual programming structure and protocols. In the absence of city leadership, the APTP created Mental Health First, Oakland’s first and only non-police service for folks experiencing mental health crises in Oakland.
The only obstacle to the rapid deployment of MACRO is a city administration intentionally holding up and delaying the process in opposition to the clear demands of the people of Oakland. As an in-house program, MACRO would gain accountability, transparency, and shared program oversight. It will create long-term union jobs with benefits for BIPOC communities in Oakland. Moreover, the Oakland community trusts our fire department, which has a history of working side by side with community members and does not have the racist culture prevalent within the Oakland police department.
Further, the city administration has invited non-profit organizations with no community support to staff MACRO—ignoring the demands of the community to bring the program in house and the need for accessible union jobs.
“As frontline city workers, our number one priority is keeping the residents of Oakland safe — and MACRO is no exception. Bringing MACRO to the Oakland fire department ensures that these positions are good, permanent, in-house, union jobs that allow working people to get ahead in Oakland,” said SEIU 1021 City of Oakland Chapter President Felipe Cuevas.
“The MACRO program is the approach Oakland needs. By shifting non-criminal, non-violent response calls for service from OPD, we can meet our communities needs without escalation,” said Councilmember Sheng Thao. “This shift is long overdue. It is essential to establish MACRO as soon as possible and that the program be administered by the city.”
“It’s very important that we take action to build a meaningful civilian responder program that will have reliability, accountability and is designed to last. By launching civilian responders as in-house staff in partnership with our Fire Department we can provide for these needs for our community and protect public safety and health,” said Vice Mayor Rebecca Kaplan
Now is a good time for all city leaders to re-ground ourselves in our humanity and moral compasses. This is literally a matter of life and death. There is widespread momentum and support for this work from the people of Oakland. Separately, a group of grassroots BIPOC-led organizations last week published an in-depth “Oakland is Reimagining Public Safety” report yesterday responding to the Reimagining Public Safety Task Force’s recommendations. In the report, they strongly supported the demand to bring MACRO in-house to create safe city jobs.
The creators of Mental Health First, labor unions, and elected officials thank Vice Mayor Rebecca Kaplan, Councilmember Nikki Fortunato Bas, Council Member Carroll Fife, Council Member Sheng Thao for their support in demanding that MACRO must launch immediately to respond to pandemic intensified mental health trauma and economic crisis. The partnership between community, labor and electeds will allow us to launch MACRO immediately, with a community roll out in four to six months. With MHFirst training, the expertise of labor in building and launching city programs, the commitment of our fire department, and the will of our city council, we are set up to deliver this vital public service.
This post based on a press release from The Worker Agency to Zennie62Media.
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