The goal of COAST is to help people on the streets who deal with mental illness and addiction and help connect them to the proper resources.
“A lot of times I’ll just ask the question see what they really want, how motivated are they and just give them that chance,” Lopez said.
The five COAST members are assigned to different APD area commands, however they’re just one short. Lopez said in the past, they’ve had even fewer members.
“I think a lot of times the public, or people have a misconception they say, even the calls we go to, the individuals will be like, ‘They don’t help, or anything,’ and I tell them, ‘If this officer didn’t want to help, he didn’t even have to call me’. And that’s awesome about my job, being able to help and do that for a living,” Lopez said.
COAST had only four members for most of the 2019 fiscal year and they helped over 1,400 people. This year they are on track to help more than 2,000 people.
APD is budgeted to hire one more person so that every area command will have a COAST specialist.