The Front Lines of the Mental Health Crisis

August 22, 2016

Katharine Dahl

In Addison, Illinois, emergency responders received a 9-1-1 hang-up call. Fortunately, the resident had registered a Smart911 Safety Profile that showed her adult son had a cognitive disability and violent nature. The information provided through Smart911 alerted responding officers that the son would not respond to verbal commands. Consequently, officers used other communication methods and de-escalated the situation without any physical injury to the man or themselves.

This instance is one of the 3-10% of police contacts are mental health-related nationwide.

GRAPHIC1_Police and the Mentally Ill-01Law enforcement agencies bear the brunt of our inadequate mental health system as they become default first responders to those having a mental health crisis.

Without appropriate training, officers may not identify the signs and symptoms of mental illness. This situation can quickly escalate to the point where an arrest is made or worse, an officer involved shooting. Even officers trained to support people in crises have limited options to divert those living with mental illness to healthcare providers instead of jail. Commonly, the only option is hospital emergency rooms.

At the front end of emergency response is the 9-1-1 call center consisting of 9-1-1 call takers and dispatchers who are a critical component of mental health crisis response. In many cases, the ability to identify mental illness involved calls is obstructed due to inadequate protocols, limited training, lack of data, and gaps in communication with police. That combined with a culture that (rightly) emphasizes speed of response can impede accurate identification of the caller situation.

White Paper-- Police and teh Mentally IllThe U.S. mental health system is failing and the impact on 9-1-1 and law enforcement is profound with unarmed and armed individuals with mental health conditions calling 9-1-1 and confronting police officers on a daily basis.

Download “Police and The U.S. Mental Health Crisis” to learn how 9-1-1 and law enforcement can leverage today’s technology to better protect those with mental health conditions and first responders.

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