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Community responders ready to take some 911 calls in Amherst

Downtown Amherst, Massachusetts, in a file photo.
Creative Commons
Downtown Amherst, Massachusetts, in a file photo.

Starting Monday, community responders can be dispatched on some 911 calls in Amherst, Massachusetts.

The town's Community Responders for Equity, Safety and Service — or CRESS — are designed as an alternative to the police in situations that don't involve violence or serious crime.

They will be handling calls on weekdays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

Amherst Fire Chief Tim Nelson, who is part of the leadership team for the new department, said town emergency dispatchers could send CRESS personnel to mental health and well-being checks, among other calls.

"Someone hasn't heard from a friend for awhile, someone hasn't heard from a sick family member for awhile, or they've called and no one's picking up the phone or something like that," Nelson said.

There are now five community responders in Amherst. Nelson said he expects an additional three will be ready to join the team in February.

Before joining New England Public Media, Alden was a producer for the CBS NEWS program 60 Minutes. In that role, he covered topics ranging from art, music and medicine to business, education and politics.
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