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City officials in Pittsfield discuss different ways to research community mental health services

An entrance to City Hall in Pittsfield, Massachusetts.
Nancy Eve Cohen
An entrance to City Hall in Pittsfield, Massachusetts.

In the aftermath of the fatal police shooting of 22-year old Miguel Estrella, some residents in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, are calling for an unarmed, community-based mental health response. City officials have different ideas about the best way to evaluate a new kind of mental health service.

At the time of the shooting, Estrella was in the midst of a mental health crisis.

In August, the city council approved an order to request that $75,000 from Pittsfield's budget be spent learning about alternative mental health services.

But Mayor Linda Tyer said it would be better to wait until two new city positions for licensed social workers are filled.

"Because their level of expertise is going to be vital to us evaluating the various models of alternative community emergency service," she said.

One of the social workers is slated to work in the city's health department; the other in the police department.

Tyer said she's open if a funding appropriation is needed in the future.

Ward 1 City Councilor Kenneth Warren, who proposed the request for the $75,000, is suggesting the city apply for a state grant from the Department of Public Health.

He said the city council is planning to meet with people from other communities who are already operating community-based mental health services.

Amherst launched its community mental health response service in early September. More than half of the funding comes from its town budget. The rest is from the state.

Tyer said she's eager to find out what Amherst learns about running this kind of service.

Corrected: October 6, 2022 at 11:06 AM EDT
Ward 1 City Councilor Kenneth Warren is suggesting the city apply for a state grant from the Department of Public Health. Due to an editing error the source of the grant was incorrectly associated with a different state department.
Nancy Eve Cohen is a senior reporter focusing on Berkshire County. Earlier in her career she was NPR’s Midwest editor in Washington, D.C., managing editor of the Northeast Environmental Hub and recorded sound for TV networks on global assignments, including the war in Sarajevo and an interview with Fidel Castro.

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