Law enforcement responders transport and transfer custody of the person with a mental illness in a safe and sensitive manner that supports the individual’s efficient access to mental health services and the officers’ timely return to duty.
Law enforcement is authorized to provide transportation for people who are under arrest or who they believe meet the criteria for emergency evaluation (whether the evaluation is voluntary or involuntary). These individuals are in law enforcement custody, and rules and regulations regarding restraints in custodial situations apply.13 Given the frequent history of traumatic experiences among people with mental illnesses, custodial restraints may create acute stress, which in turn may escalate their degree of agitation. Law enforcement executives, with input from other program planners, should review policies regarding restraints in custodial situations and balance considerations of officer and citizen safety with the impact of these controls on people with mental illnesses.
The planning committee should identify facilities that are capable of assuming custodial responsibility, are available at all times, and have personnel qualified to conduct a mental health evaluation.14 Speedy custodial transfer is critical to the overall success of law enforcement responses. To enable officers to return quickly to their duties, staff in the receiving facility should efficiently and accurately obtain relevant law enforcement information. Protocols should ensure that medical clearance is achieved in a timely manner and that people brought by law enforcement are never turned away. If law enforcement responders determine that the person with a mental illness should be arrested and officers take the person to jail or lockup, then qualified staff should be available to screen the arrestee at intake for mental health status, medication needs, and suicide risk.
In noncustodial situations in which the person does not meet the criteria for emergency evaluation and is not under arrest—but officers determine he or she would benefit from services and support—officers should try to connect the individual with a friend or family member, peer support group, or treatment crisis center. Similarly, officers should seek to engage the services of the individual’s current mental health provider or a mobile crisis team. In some jurisdictions, law enforcement may also collaborate with mental health professionals to help transport individuals to evaluation or treatment facilities.
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. BJA supports these urban and rural police departments to act as host-sites to visiting law enforcement agencies and their mental health partners.
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.
The ten 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.
TTA is provided to law enforcement agencies and their community partners 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 TA FAQs.