Boston City Councilors heard testimony on Tuesday about an initiative in the Boston Police Department that would enlist trained clinical specialists to accompany police officers when they're responding to someone with likely mental health issues. City Council members want to see that program expanded. 
Twenty-two-year Boston Police veteran Sammy Silta told City Councilors that not so long ago, when it came to responding to situations involving someone with a mental health issue, "The way we used to make the problem go away was to make the person go away — so we would arrest that person." 
That, Silta says, has changed — partly thanks to a program that pays for mental health clinicians to accompany police officers. But right now, the program employs only two clinicians for the whole city, and it's funded by a temporary grant. 
City Councilors Annissa Essaibi-Goerge and Ayanna Pressley, who co-sponsored the resolution calling for Tuesday's hearing, want to see at least one clinician in every police district — and for the program to be part of the city's budget.  
Experts testified that mental health interventions saved taxpayer money otherwise spent on incarceration and emergency services. The Massachusetts Department of Mental Health estimated that mental health interventions in 93 cases saved about $375,000 in averted emergency service responses.