Alternative Response Resolutions

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Amelia Parker
Posts: 10
Joined: Fri Dec 27, 2019 9:44 am

Alternative Response Resolutions

Post by Amelia Parker » Mon Jun 26, 2023 4:29 pm

Good afternoon fellow members of Council,

I am emailing to share my thoughts on the Alternative Response resolutions on the agenda, provide clarity as to why multiple agenda items addressing alternative response are on our agenda, and ask for your support of my resolution.

Following our meeting 4 weeks ago, community members with Knoxville HEART began contacting Council members about their desired changes to the resolution I introduced that expresses support for the adoption of an alternative response team in Knoxville and the formation of a task force to study and propose a plan for introducing alternative response to Knoxville’s E-911 services.

Conversations with Councilmembers revealed a few priorities for changes to the resolution:
  • Council members expressed a need to review relevant data from the Sequential Intercept Mapping (SIM) process as well as from KPD’s Co-responder program before forming a task force.
  • Council members wanted to acknowledge the previous steps that have been taken by Council to divert individuals in a mental health crisis from the jail and emergency rooms.
  • Council members wanted clarity regarding what the $50,000 would be spent on.
Community members wanted to ensure that an amended resolution still prioritized input and collaboration from the community as alternative response is considered by the City.

In response to the expressed priorities of Council members and the community, I worked with community members to develop a new resolution that would incorporate Council members’ changes. A task force was removed from the proposal and the process was slowed down to allow time for additional data gathering and review by Council, including a public hearing that would allow Council to hear from residents, area non-profits, and other service providers.

Unfortunately, during that time, Vice Mayor Roberto chose to develop his own resolution without the input or collaboration of community members. To remain committed to collaboration, I worked to incorporate language from Vice Mayor Roberto’s resolution before submitting my resolution to the agenda, which prevented me from being able to get an updated resolution to my colleagues in time for their cosponsorship as I was out of town for work and away from my computer when I received Roberto’s resolution. There was also some confusion among Council members as to whether I would submit amendments to Roberto’s resolution or submit my own resolution.

I chose to submit my own resolution because the very subject of Roberto’s resolution is different from my original resolution. Roberto’s resolution focuses on mental health rather than the need for an alternative response team. By charter, Councilmembers must submit ordinances and resolutions that address only one subject. The resolutions I have submitted and the proposal that I’ve made is for the city council to show our support for the adoption of alternative response and take action to move the city of Knoxville in the direction of adopting an alternative response program that can address multiple issues, not just a gap in mental health services. Roberto’s proposal is for additional mental health services including psychiatric hospitalization units and a cross-jurisdictional alternative response program. The needed conversation about alternative response is unnecessarily being skewed to one only focused on the mental health supports it provides as Roberto’s resolution removes any mention of the needs, emergencies, and sometimes frivolous 911 calls that arise from individuals experiencing homelessness and other public health crises. It also threatens to delay the adoption of an alternative response program until the city obtains other services such as psychiatric hospitalization units for the uninsured.

Outside of mental health, we have a growing population of individuals living on the streets whose own personal emergencies as well as simply their presence in unexpected places can prompt calls to 911. As an example, a malnourished, dehydrated person can get confused and disoriented, causing them to create concern when wandering through neighborhoods, putting both themselves and others in danger when their confusion causes them to wander into the street. These occurrences seem to be becoming more and more frequent. We have lost multiple houseless neighbors to pedestrian accidents. Some of our neighbors are suffering from severe addictions that do lead to disturbing behaviors. Some are suffering from severe mental illness that can cause concerning behaviors. However, we can not put every disoriented person we see into one category nor can we automatically assume they need intense mental health interventions of which we do not have the resources. Nor should we delay alternative response because of our need to better serve all of those populations as well.

In addition, I chose to submit my own resolution because there were numerous amendments needed of Roberto’s resolution including:
  • In the third WHEREAS, Roberto’s resolution does not explicitly name Knoxville HEART, a group that has provided tremendous leadership on this issue. It also only identifies mental health as the area where expanded services and collaboration are needed.
  • In the sixth WHEREAS, Roberto’s resolution recognizes a need to expand a 72-hour crisis stabilization unit as well as a local long-term psychiatric hospitalization unit(s) with the intention of serving low income and uninsured individuals. As stated above, this proposal is different from the proposal to adopt an alternative response team and therefore should be a separate resolution. I support the city of Knoxville exploring the need for long-term psychiatric hospitalization unit(s) for the uninsured in Knoxville and working with the state and others to meet the need in our city without delay. However, an alternative response program could move forward and save lives without that capacity being expanded and it should not be stalled and prevented from moving forward until long-term psychiatric units are secured.
  • In the eighth WHEREAS, Roberto’s resolution defines alternative response as community-based response. However this is incorrect. Cities throughout the country have taken a varied approach to alternative response, housing the program both within a governmental department or within a community-based nonprofit. Some are multi-jurisdictional, serving a region, and some are very localized, only serving a few neighborhoods. We should not limit ourselves to a community-based model when exploring what our city needs and can sustain over the long-term.
  • In the eleventh and twelfth WHEREAS, Roberto’s resolution defines the process as needing to be a multi-jurisdictional effort to explore an alternative response program and mandates cross-jurisdictional cooperation and support in order for the program to be successful. However, those assumptions are not absolute truths. As stated above, an alternative response team can be multi-jurisdictional or very localized. The assumptions made in these sections limit the possibilities of what an alternative response team in the city of Knoxville could look like.
  • In Section 1 at the bottom, Roberto’s resolution once again omits the needs and emergencies arising from homelessness that would be served by an alternative response team and only focuses on mental health.
  • In Section 2 at the bottom, Roberto’s resolution proposes a joint workshop with the county to review the findings of the SIM exercise and discuss gaps in services including long-term psychiatric units and community-based response. The description of the workshop once again limits the conversation about alternative response to only a community-based model. In addition, the workshop format does not allow space for the community to contribute and ask questions. Furthermore, the joint workshop format also limits the ability for city council to discuss as a body the adoption of alternative response into the city’s 911 services, whether the county or state are willing to commit to a public health approach to these issues or not. Regardless of the venue for discussion established, the Knoxville City Council must ensure it creates a space to discuss an alternative response program that would uphold city values and ensure our commitment to adopting a program that commits to a public health approach and practices that maintain community trust.
  • As a compromise, my resolution includes both the workshop as well as a public hearing in place of a task force or subcommittee to further study the issue. The public hearing would allow all Council members to participate in a process to determine what version of alternative response would best meet the needs of our jurisdiction and the public hearing would ensure the community’s participation. As allowed by Robert’s Rules of Order and Council’s own rules, a task force or subcommittee could still be formed to further study the issue and make a recommendation if needed following the workshop and public hearing.
Consequently, we have 3 resolutions on the agenda. At the start of the meeting, I plan to make a motion to suspend Council rules to allow my resolution to be heard ahead of the mayor’s report and reports of Councilmembers as allowed by ordinance (see below). Rob Frost will join me in explaining this part of our code and why I’m making a motion to change the order of business. I hope you will support my resolution setting the public hearing date, expressing support of alternative response, endorsing the mayor’s pledge of $50k, and announcing intent to schedule a workshop.

Under Section 7.5-63 of the Knoxville City Code, the regular order of business for Council meetings is codified. Under this section, the setting of a public hearing should appear on the agenda before the mayor’s report and after the adoption of the agenda. When I submitted my resolution, which includes the setting of a public hearing, I suggested my agenda item should appear at the top of the agenda. However, it was not listed as so. I was later informed that city council has not followed that section of the code for some number of years and therefore, I would need to make a motion to suspend the rules in order to set the date for a public hearing at the beginning of the meeting. I hope you will support my motion to change the order of business.

With amendments, I fully support the adoption of Vice Mayor Roberto’s resolution as well. However, amendments are needed so that our 2 resolutions do not contradict each other and those amendments are to delete the 8th, 11th, and 12th whereas sections of Roberto’s resolution.

I believe we have reached a good compromise and I hope my colleagues will recognize the collaboration that has gone into the development of the alternative response public hearing resolution and the contributions of community members by supporting my the resolution on Tuesday. I will move to withdraw the resolution proposing a task force. Thank you all so much for your willingness to dedicate time to working with community members to collaboratively develop this important resolution expressing support of alternative response and setting a date for a public hearing.

Community trust will be key to the success of any alternative response program adopted by the city. I hope you will agree to this compromised path forward.


Amelia Parker
Posts: 10
Joined: Fri Dec 27, 2019 9:44 am

Re: Alternative Response Resolutions

Post by Amelia Parker » Tue Jun 27, 2023 3:12 pm

Hi all,

I’ve been told by some community members that there may be the opinion among Council members that the city does not have the authority to lead on this issue because we do not have a health department.

Actually, alternative response teams have been adopted into a city’s E-911 services in a myriad of ways. Recently, the following resource was shared with me that details the various models of alternative response that have been adopted throughout the country. I share it here in case it is useful: ... p=drivesdk

Also, the alternative response model that Durham has adopted is one that may be a good fit for our city. Durham has a coresponder program as well as alternative response. In Durham, alternative response is housed in the city’s Community Safety Department.

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