Serious mental health incidents, from suicide attempts to drug overdoses to disruptive behavior, can prompt emergency calls that bring law enforcement officers to the scene.
However, individuals with untreated serious mental illness are 16 times more likely to be killed while being approached or stopped by law enforcement than other civilians, according to the non-profit Treatment Advocacy Center. The Center found in 2015 that about 25 percent of fatal law enforcement encounters involved an individual with serious mental illness.
Several such fatalities in 2020 have led many states and communities across the United States to reconsider how law enforcement officers respond to behavioral health needs. Here are some of the changes they are considering.
In California and Ohio, an Emphasis on Training
The police department at San Jose, Calif., is partnering with a county behavioral health program in response to community concerns about how law enforcement officers deal with serious mental illness. Some San Jose Police Department officers will now participate in a one-year, twice-weekly pilot program that includes training in mental health and de-escalation.
In Ohio, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) of Seneca, Sandusky, and Wyandot Counties launched a new crisis intervention team (CIT) academy for several counties. This Pilot Online CIT Training Academy combines online learning, online meetings, and in-person training to create the first CIT hybrid training program of its kind in the state. Deputies, police officers, corrections officers, and dispatchers received training on de-escalation techniques and recognizing mental health issues.
Winnebago County in Illinois Partners With Mental Health Experts
When responding to emergency psychiatric episodes, deputies in Winnebago County and police officers in Rockford, Ill., will partner with mental health experts in a three-month pilot program. Rather than conducting an arrest and sending individuals into the criminal justice system, officers will direct individuals in a psychiatric crisis toward treatment.
The program, which launched November 1, includes a specially trained unit of two Rockford police officers, two Winnebago County sheriff’s deputies, and two crisis response workers from behavioral health organization Rosecrance. Rockford Police Chief Dan O’Shea says that, after a 911 call, law enforcement officers will secure an emergency scene before crisis workers assess the person and determine the next step, such as a counseling referral or transport to a medical facility.
Florida Law Enforcement Seeks Expert Help
The Hillsborough County, Fla., Sheriff’s Office in late October announced plans for a new behavioral health program that will change how county law enforcement responds to mental health calls. This program will connect people to the help and resources they need.
Tampa and St. Petersburg police departments have made similar moves to divert non-criminal calls to behavioral health experts rather than law enforcement. St. Petersburg Police Chief Anthony Holloway said his department is seeking social workers and awaiting responses to a request for proposals issued in October.
As communities across the nation attempt to address police responses and improve care for mental health needs, your behavioral health practice is more important than ever. BestNotes EHR solutions help you improve communications and track outcomes so you can stay on top of demand and stay profitable as you make a difference for your clients and your communities. Contact us today to learn more or set up a free demo.