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ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. – Many people know when to call 911. But do they know what it means to “call for the pin?

“I still run into so many individuals who have no idea that police departments have this type of a program,” St. Louis County Police Sgt. Gary Robertson said.

Robertson is referring to the police officers—throughout the metro area, not just St. Louis County—who are specially trained to respond to a mental health crisis.

Region wide, more than 2,200 police officers belong to a crisis intervention team (CIT).

“That CIT officer is going to show up to the scene. They’re going to de-escalate it, make sure everything is calm, everyone is safe, and they’re going to mitigate that crisis,” Robertson said. “The ultimate goal is to help that individual find their wellness, and make sure they’re not going to slip between the cracks, and ultimately find the help that they need.”

Robertson is the supervisor of St. Louis County’s CIT. The department works closely with several organizations, including BJC Behavioral Health, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, and Behavioral Health Response.

CIT certification entails a 40-hour, advanced level of training that police officers receive after they graduate from the academy. He said calls for crises involving a mental health issue have increased dramatically in the past year.

In 2020 alone, the St. Louis County Police Department responded to nearly 7,900 calls for service involving individuals suffering from a mental health crisis, he said.

“Any time anyone is suffering from a level of crisis, whether that be a severe psychosis, maybe somebody is just feeling down and depressed,” he said.

St. Louis County works with a variety of mental health organizations, such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), Missouri Department of Mental Health, Behavioral Health Response (BHR), BJC Behavioral Health, and the St. Louis County Counselor’s Office.

With calls on the increase, mental health professionals want the public to be aware of the services available.

That is where the Call for the Pin campaign comes in, Robertson said.

Digital billboards can be seen throughout the region, reminding the public that they can request for a CIT response during an emergency.

“A large piece of what the Call for the Pin Campaign is about, is about community awareness of the program,” Robertson said.