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Police-Mental Health Collaborations: A Framework for Implementing Effective Law Enforcement Responses for People Who Have Mental Health Needs

NCJ Number
Date Published
April 2019
24 pages
After reviewing the rationale for the development of community police-mental health collaborations, this report provides a framework for a needs assessment by a law enforcement agency prior to the development and maintenance of a police-mental health collaboration (PMHC).
The rationale for a community to have a PMHC is that law enforcement agencies are faced with a growing number of calls for service that involve problem or illegal behaviors by people with mental health needs; however, officers are not adequately trained to identify and respond appropriately to people whose problem behaviors stem from a mental illness. Police need mental health professionals and service systems to both provide training for police in identifying and responding appropriately to persons with mental illness and then managing the case through a multidisciplinary approach that both protects the public and meets the health needs of the person with mental illness. In order to address these challenges, some law enforcement agencies have invested in comprehensive, agency-wide approaches and partnerships with the behavioral health system. These cross-system approaches build on the success of mental health training and specialized teams by layering multiple types of response models. One section of this report provides instruction in the use of data to assess the impact of a collaborative approach over time that measures both the need for and the effectiveness of a PMHC. The report outlines four key outcomes that provide evidence of whether a PMHC is successful. This is followed by an outline of six questions law enforcement leaders must address in developing and sustaining a PMHC. Case histories are provided to illustrate components of PMHCs in jurisdictions throughout the nation. Online access is provided to the federal Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) Police Mental Health Collaboration Toolkit.