Mayor Mueller calls bill proposing all mental health appeals to SBFD ‘ignorant and reckless’

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (WNDU) – South Bend Mayor James Mueller calls on council members who drafted a newly proposed bill on Monday.

“We believe it is premature and perhaps even reckless for the authors of the bill to make such statements that have not been confirmed by investigation or other evidence,” Mueller said during of a press conference.

In it, Bill 22-36 includes the establishment of a mental health crisis team within the South Bend Fire Department. However, Mueller says that idea and other terms in the bill have created all kinds of confusion.

“This resolution poses more questions than answers to anything going forward,” Mueller said.

For South Bend Fire Chief Carl Buchanon, he says no one called him before this resolution was moved, but says it’s impractical to rely solely on firefighters to respond to every mental health crisis call.

“They (firefighters) are not mental health assessors or clinicians who could provide that service,” Buchanon said.

With no name, co-sponsor, or even a covering letter attached to the bill, Sixth District Council member Sheila Neizgodski says it’s still unfairly placed on the council’s agenda. common Monday.

“It was filed in haste. There has been no communication with the chair of the health and public safety committee, who is Councilman Eli Wax. The protocols in place for proper filing were not followed,” Neizgodski says.

This all comes as questions surround the death of Dante Kittrell, a South Bend man shot dead by police after he allegedly pointed his gun at officers.

South Bend Police promised in a statement Monday to release video of the incident:

Meanwhile, Police Chief Scott Ruszkowski says anyone who questions officers’ abilities to handle mental health crisis calls is wrong.

“When something goes wrong, people pretend we don’t know what we’re doing or aren’t trained for it, which is literally the opposite,” Ruszkowski says.

Of 668 mental health-related crisis calls to South Bend police in 2022, Ruszkowski reports that 667 ended peacefully without incident.

Mueller says that while the bill raises points about the importance of the mental health response, it does not explain how a full-time mental health crisis team would be put in place.

“These are not mobile crisis teams. In fact, we are already working on implementing them here in our community and will continue to do so,” says Mueller.

Following Monday’s press conference, Bill 22-36 was heard at a Common Council meeting, but members ultimately decided to table the bill indefinitely.

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