Specialized law enforcement-based response programs connect individuals with mental illnesses to comprehensive and effective community-based treatment, supports, and services.
Law enforcement officers often are called to respond to incidents that are the manifestation of an untreated or inadequately treated mental illness. Specialized law enforcement-based responses provide an opportunity to link these individuals to community mental health supports and services that promote long-term wellness and reduce the chance of future negative encounters with officers.
When law enforcement responders bring individuals who are not under arrest to licensed mental health professionals at a receiving facility, staff there should be qualified to conduct a mental health evaluation; assess the contributions of mental illness, substance abuse, and other medical conditions to current behavior; and manage crisis situations. With their knowledge of available community-based treatment resources, mental health professionals can then link the individual to needed supports and services.
Individuals with mental illnesses often require an array of services and supports, which can include medications, counseling, substance abuse treatment, income supports and government entitlements, housing, crisis services, peer supports, case management, and inpatient treatment. Planners of the specialized response program should anticipate the treatment needs of the individuals with whom law enforcement will come in contact and work with service providers in the community to better ensure these needs can be met and coordinated.
Because many individuals with mental illnesses who come into contact with law enforcement have co-occurring substance use disorders, follow-up services will be most effective when delivered by providers with the capacity to integrate treatment approaches. Accordingly, the planning committee should consider how the program can help connect individuals with co-occurring disorders to integrated treatment and should advocate for greater access to this and other evidence-based practices.18 Planners should pay special attention to the service needs of racial and ethnic minorities and women by making culturally competent and gender-sensitive services available to the extent possible.
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