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Walter Wallace Jr. received mental health treatment just days before his death; a West Philly crisis center questions why they weren't included in Monday's response

By Ellie Rushing, The Philadelphia Inquirer on

Published in News & Features

PHILADELPHIA — Just three days before Walter Wallace Jr. was fatally shot by police, the 27-year-old was treated at the West Philadelphia Consortium, a mental health crisis response center, according to executive director John White.

He regularly used the outpatient center's services and had recently resumed treatment.

"His mother told me that when he came home Friday and she asked him how it went, he told her that he was doing much better and that we had gotten him ready to start looking for a job," said White, citing privacy regulations in not specifying the type of help Wallace was receiving.

But for whatever reason, Wallace's mental health began to spiral. Police responded to his home twice on reports of a domestic disturbance Monday. It was during their third visit when Wallace walked toward officers with a knife, and they fired 14 shots at him.

Wallace's family is so familiar with West Philadelphia Consortium that they have used its services in the days following his death. If the mobile crisis team from the center — located just seven blocks from Wallace's home — had been called to the scene, Wallace may be alive today, White said.

"We knew him and he knew us," said White, a detail first reported by Billy Penn.


"He trusted us and was appreciative of the help we provided," he said. "No one else on the scene could claim that credibility ... He didn't know the police, he didn't trust them."

Police didn't summon the center during any of the calls to the Wallace home Monday, nor did Wallace's family.

When someone calls 911 to report a mental health crisis, the dispatcher is supposed to flag the call to the city's Mental Health Emergency Hotline, which then dispatches one of the city's three mobile crisis units to the scene, White said.

The West Philadelphia Consortium is one of those units and has two teams — which include a clinician, a mental health counselor, and a nurse practitioner — that respond to calls across West Philadelphia. When the unarmed team arrives, they can offer on-site treatment, medication, outpatient services, or a ride to the hospital.


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