VOICES: River City, Episode 68: Asantewaa Boykin of MH First and the Anti Police-Terror Project

Rather than invest in a social safety net that protects Americans from experiencing mental health crises, addiction and homelessness, our country funnels the majority of its resources into punitive, violent police forces, and a burgeoning jail and prison system.

But Asantewaa Boykin of MH First and the Anti Police-Terror Project says there’s a better way.

Historically, when we see someone experiencing a mental health crisis, the only option for a first responder to call has been the police. But even cops have said that they are not mental health professionals.

In fact, the American police force brings with it a culture of escalation and punitive enforcement. So when police arrive to the scene of someone experiencing a mental health crisis, tragedy often follows. Sacramentans will remember the 2016 story of Joseph Mann, who would have benefited from the help of a mental health professional. Instead, Sacramento police officers arriving at the scene tried to run him over with their vehicle and, when that failed, shot him 14 times.

With MH First, Boykin (a registered nurse) and her team of volunteers offer up a different, safer option.

APTP’s website describes MH First as “a cutting-edge new model for non-police response to mental health crisis. The goal of MH First is to respond to mental health crises including, but not limited to, psychiatric emergencies, substance use disorder support, and domestic violence situations that require victim extraction.”

Between 7 pm and 7 am on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, Sacramentans can call MH First if they see someone experiencing a crisis that could benefit from their care. They have successfully responded to countless calls, caring for the people who need help, giving them food and water, and discussing options with them for how best to proceed with their own care.

While Mayor Darrell Steinberg and the Sacramento City Council continue to steal millions in Measure U funding from Sacramento taxpayers, giving it to the violent Sacramento police (#GiveItBack, tinyurl.com/giveitbacksac), Boykin and MH First provide a proven community-based model for emergency response.

Thanks for listening and, as always:

Patreon: patreon.com/voicesrivercity

Twitter: @youknowkempa@guillotine4you@ShanNDSTevens@Flojaune

And thank you to Be Brave Bold Robot for the tunes.


VOICES: the podcast
Independent. Weird. Audio. The VOICES: River City podcast is here to talk all things Sacramento with the region's activists, artists and aardvarks.