Organizations and individuals representing a wide range of disciplines and perspectives and with a strong interest in improving law enforcement encounters with people with mental illnesses work together in one or more groups to determine the response
program’s characteristics and guide implementation efforts.
Specialized responses to people with mental illnesses are an outgrowth of community policing and as such should reflect a partnership between a law enforcement agency and other stakeholder groups and individuals. Partners for the lead law enforcement
agency should include mental health service providers, people with mental illnesses and their family members and loved ones, and mental health advocates. Based on the nature of the problem, additional partners could include other area law enforcement
professionals; health and substance abuse treatment providers; housing officials and other service providers; hospital and emergency room administrators; crime victims; other criminal justice personnel such as prosecutors and jail administrators;
elected officials; state, local, and private funders; and community representatives. Any stakeholder may initiate the planning for the specialized response, but to take root, the lead law enforcement agency must fully embrace the effort.
At the outset of the planning process, leaders from each of the stakeholder agencies who have operational decision-making authority and community representatives should come together as a multidisciplinary planning committee. This executive-level committee
should examine the nature of the problem and help determine the program’s objectives and design (see Element 2, Program Design ), taking into consideration how the committee will relate to other criminal justice–mental health boards that may be in
place or are in the process of being established. The planning committee also should provide a forum for developing grant applications and working with local and state officials. Although focused primarily on planning decisions, members should remain
engaged during the implementation phase to provide ongoing leadership and support problem solving and design modifications throughout the life of the program.
Agency leaders on the planning committee also should designate appropriate staff to make up a program coordination group responsible for overseeing day-to-day activities. (In some jurisdictions, the two bodies may be the same—particularly those with small
agencies, in rural areas, or with limited resources.) This coordination group should oversee officer training, measure the program’s progress toward achieving stated goals, and resolve ongoing challenges to program effectiveness. The group also should
serve to keep agency leaders and other policymakers informed of program costs, developments, and progress. Both groups’ members should reflect the community’s demographic composition.
To overcome challenges inherent in multidisciplinary collaboration, including staff turnover and changes in leadership, partnership and program policies should be institutionalized to the extent possible. Interagency memoranda of understanding (MOUs) can
be developed to address key issues such as how each organization will commit resources and what information can be shared through identified mechanisms.
Support jurisdictions in exploring
strategies to improve the outcomes of
encounters between law enforcement and
people who have mental illnesses.
Many communities struggle with the PMHC program design process. Communities are unsure how to design and develop a PMHC program that meets their distinct needs and challenges. One way to increase knowledge of PMHCs, is to review programs that other jurisdictions have developed and tailor those programs to your specific community needs.
Law Enforcement agencies interested in expanding their knowledge base, starting, or enhancing a PMHC, can contact The U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) or BJA’s Training and Technical Assistance (TTA) Provider. In 2010, BJA selected six police departments to act as national law enforcement/mental health learning sites.
Located across the country, these learning sites represent a diverse cross-section of perspectives and program examples and are dedicated to helping other jurisdictions improve their responses to people with mental illnesses.
six learning sites host site visits
from interested colleagues and other local and state government officials, answer questions from the field, and work with BJA’s TTA provider to develop materials for practitioners and their community partners.
is provided to law enforcement agencies in an effort to assist with the development or implementation of PMHC strategies. Supplemental funds can be made available to agencies that are interested in visiting the learning sites. This is a focused approach intended to provide your agency with access to outstanding peer resources for police-mental health collaboration programs.
To request TTA and receive confirmation within 36 hours of your request,
For frequently asked questions about the Law Enforcement Mental Health Learning Sites, access the