The Burbank Mental Health Evaluation Team is a local service of the Burbank Police Department which has been effectively aiding the community with mental wellness assistance for nearly a decade.
BMHET began in 2012, when Deputy Chief Mike Albanese was serving as Patrol Captain for the Burbank Police Department. At the time, he noticed a nearly-20% surge in the amount of mental health cases being presented to the department. Albanese subsequently spearheaded the Burbank Mental Health Evaluation Team, a program which offers assistance to locals who are suffering from a mental illness or homelessness.
The staff of BMHET utilizes a co-response model in their work. This format consists of a Burbank Police Department officer and a clinical psychologist from the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health joining forces to respond to calls with mental health concerns. Together, the team addresses mental health needs of the community while keeping officers informed on how to properly address situations involving mental illness.
“Part of the [purpose of the co-response] model was not only for the mental health intervention assessment, but also to [incorporate] employment training so that officers [are] more conversant with mental health-related illnesses and [have] the ability to recognize the symptomatology,” Albanese said.
Essential members of BMHET are Ennisha Kyles, who serves as a Mental Health Evaluation Officer, and Mental Health Clinical Supervisor Audra Casabella. Casabella has held her role for nearly four years, while Kyles joined BMHET in December of 2020. Their collaborative functions see Casabella focusing on clinical evaluations, resource linkage, and referrals, and Kyles using verbal de-escalation techniques to prevent confrontations between consumers and law enforcement.
In addition, collaborations with local organizations such as the Burbank Family Services Agency aid BMHET in coordinating referrals for locals in need of mental health assistance. This includes scenarios where a BMHET caller is reaching out on behalf of a family member or someone close to them who could benefit from their help. Together, BMHET workers can apply these partnerships to introducing locals to applicable assistance based on their individual needs.
“BMHET can assist community members by connecting them to the appropriate resources that can help their loved ones navigate the mental health system with the hopes that the crisis will be resolved,” Kyles said. “We work with community members of all ages and can help connect them to services related to mental health, housing, and care. We are proud to provide all of these services because, for some families, it is the small glimpse of hope they are looking for.”
All BMHET personnel have received training from the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Criminal Justice Institute. This preparation comprises 16 hours of training on mental health awareness and critical tactics of crisis intervention for first responders. The comprehensive system of training on mental health is carried out annually for BMHET staff.
BMHET not only educates the police department but also provides training for the Burbank Fire Department and Burbank City staff. Whenever they receive requests, the team promotes their services through community meetings and training, which has included informing local school districts, hospitals, and clinics on mental health. BMHET values these opportunities, as they believe knowledge is a critical component in improving our community’s attitude towards mental health.
“Education is a huge part of mental health awareness,” Kyles said. “Educating individuals and families about available resources is key to a successful intervention. Individuals and families must also be patient and persistent when it comes to finding solutions. The results are not always instant, but we like to remind the community members that if something is not working for them, we work to find a new solution that can help.”
The program is essential to Burbank residents who may have an isolated mental health episode, or high utilizers of public assistance. The latter group are either in crisis situations or perceived crisis situations and in need of ongoing mental health care, which BMHET approaches with delicate efforts as they call upon the educational element of their training.
The community has been very responsive to the valuable work that BMHET staff carries out to serve the mental health needs of Burbank residents. So much so, that at the Burbank Police Commission Meeting held on April 21, 2021, the commission discussed the possibility of expanding similar services to other departments, such as the Burbank Fire Department. The idea of simply extending the hours of the current BMHET program was also introduced.
“Working in BMHET, we see how appreciative community members are of our services,” Kyles said. “Citizens like knowing that they are not alone and that there is help available.”
BMHET has dedicated its system to advancing mental wellness education for the entire Burbank community. Their staff wants to send a clear message to anyone struggling with their mental state that these problems are valid, and there are many available support systems that can provide the care they need.
“One of the most important things we would like to communicate is that they are not alone,” Kyles said on BMHET’s message to those suffering from a mental illness. “There are individuals and teams like BMHET that are specifically tailored to assist with mental health interventions. There are countywide services through the Department of Mental Health such as ACCESS mental health hotline that can assist with linking clients to mental health resources.”
To learn more about BMHET, visit their page on the Burbank Police Department’s site here.