Detroit — Officials launched a task force Friday to address a lack of resources and treatment available for people with mental illnesses in the city.

Councilman Roy McCalister Jr. on Friday announced the formation of the Mental Health Task Force, which, he says, will include outreach programs at local schools and prisons.

Mental health has come to the forefront in Detroit following incidents in which mentally ill suspects are accused of killing police officers. Most recently, a man who reportedly suffers from mental illness allegedly fatally shot Officer Glenn Doss on Jan. 24.

McCalister will lead the task force in partnership with Wayne County Commissioner Reggie “Reg” Davis. Both officials say they plan to seek funding resources for task force programs.

Other members of the task force include Police Chief James Craig, Mayor Mike Duggan, Detroit Wayne Mental Health Authority CEO Willie Brooks and Detroit Health Department Director Joneigh Khaldun.

“The people of Detroit need assistance in the area of mental health care,” McCalister said.

“The people of Wayne County and the entire state of Michigan need assistance in the area of mental health care. I am calling on key stakeholders, legislators and the mental health care arena to come and stand together and assist, educate and raise awareness and coordinate in the efforts to address the issues of mental health care, which is affecting our families, our neighborhoods, our veterans, our returning citizens and our youth.”

Davis said the early onset of mental illness can reach children as young as 11. He plans to create a program in Detroit schools that would train teachers to identify red flags in students with mental health issues.

“We cannot forget about our young people,” Davis said. “For every $1 that we allocate toward preventive care, we will save $8 in treatment. So if we can find, for example, $10 million and we put it into preventive care, we look towards saving some $80 million in treatment.”

McCalister said the task force will be charged with working with prisons and other groups to create long-term solutions that he hopes will reduce crime. McCalister said prisons often release people without giving them the proper mental health treatment.

“We not only want to have resources where we can refer people,” McCalister said. “We want to hold people accountable for the services they are supposed to be experts in.”

Duggan said Friday that police are often faced with the pressure of encountering mentally ill people. He also said the homeless population needs better access to mental health treatment.

“(Police) don’t know when they are going to confront somebody who acts in a very unpredictable way,” Duggan said. “The other piece is we continue to make progress on homelessness in the city, but putting people in shelters in the evening to keep them warm and releasing them the next day is not the solution to homelessness.”

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Twitter: @NicquelTerry

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