Law enforcement officers are routinely first responders to people experiencing crises in their community. A crisis refers to an emotionally stressful event and/or traumatic experience in which a person’s natural coping skills are ineffective.1 Crisis situations can be influenced by many factors, including mental health conditions, substance use, intellectual and developmental disabilities, and situational stress. Law enforcement responses to individuals in crisis can be time-consuming and present significant challenges for officers. Given the nature of these interactions, safe and effective responses require specialized training, tailored policies, and strategic partnerships.
Seeking to enhance responses to people in crisis, law enforcement agencies are increasingly partnering with service providers and developing police-mental health collaboration (PMHC) programs. Effective PMHC programs include commitment from law enforcement leadership, partnerships with community-based mental health providers, training for officers and 911 call-takers and dispatchers, clear policies and procedures, and specialized crisis response teams (e.g., Crisis Intervention Teams, co-responder teams, mobile crisis teams).2
"A PMHC is a law enforcement-based program that enables officers to respond appropriately and safely to people with mental illness. Effective PMHC programs are defined by collaborative partnerships with law enforcement agencies, mental health and [intellectual and developmental disabilities] I/DD providers, and other community-based entities. PMHC programs allow officers to be safer, reduce repeat calls for service, minimize the strain on agency resources, and connect people with mental illness and I/DD to services."3
This toolkit presents the elements of PMHC programs for effective crisis response. Within each element, research, best practices, and resources are shared to support law enforcement agencies and communities in enhancing their crisis response efforts.
The following webpages contain additional resources on mental health and crisis response.
Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) Police-Mental Health Collaboration (PMHC) Toolkit
The PMHC Toolkit provides resources for law enforcement agencies to partner with service providers, advocates, and individuals with mental illness and/or intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). The goal of these partnerships is to ensure the safety of all, to respond effectively, and to improve access to services and supports for people with mental illness and IDD.
Academic Training to Inform Police Responses
Led by the University of Cincinnati with the support of BJA, the Academic Training Initiative brings together experts in law enforcement, behavioral health, disabilities, curriculum development, and evaluation to raise awareness in the law enforcement community about the nature and needs of persons with behavioral health (BH) conditions and intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) to facilitate the use of evidence-informed and best practices in crisis response.
In addition to products developed under the Academic Training Initiative, the website includes a comprehensive Resource Library with various resources that are designed to support law enforcement agencies and their community partners in the development and implementation of crisis response programs.
BJA Justice and Mental Health Collaboration Program
From first contact to reentry, the Justice and Mental Health Collaboration Program (JMHCP) supports criminal justice and behavioral health systems across the country as they safely divert people from the justice system and increase access to mental health treatment, innovative crisis services, housing supports, and more.
International Association of Chiefs of Police One Mind Campaign
The One Mind Campaign seeks to ensure successful interactions between law enforcement and individuals with mental health conditions. The initiative focuses on uniting local communities, public safety organizations, and mental health organizations so that the three become "of one mind."
The Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center
The Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center is a national, nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that combines the power of a membership association, representing state officials in all three branches of government, with policy and research expertise to develop strategies that increase public safety and strengthen communities.
The CSG Justice Center’s Expanding First Response: A Toolkit for Community Responder Programs
This toolkit serves as a central hub for local communities and states looking to establish or strengthen community responder programs. Drawing on the experience of emerging models across the country, the toolkit presents key issues that are crucial to the success of any program. These resources can help jurisdictions reimagine public safety and focus on expanding first response efforts for improving health outcomes, strengthening connections to services, and reducing unnecessary police involvement.
The Arc of the United States
The Arc’s National Center on Criminal Justice and Disability® (NCCJD®) serves as a bridge between the criminal justice and disability communities. NCCJD pursues and promotes safety, fairness, and justice for people with IDD, especially those with hidden disabilities and marginalized identities, as victims, witnesses, suspects, defendants, and incarcerated persons.
National League of Cities: Addressing Mental Health, Substance Use and Homelessness
The broad goal of this project is to provide a resource to help city leaders implement effective strategies for emergency response and crisis stabilization for individuals experiencing mental illness, substance use disorder and/or homelessness. City leaders may adapt the strategies to address specific challenges related to these areas. Using a grant from Arnold Ventures, NLC worked to examine established city strategies and work directly with select cities to research, test and implement improvements.
The University of Chicago Health Lab Transform911
Transform911 seeks to evaluate the evidence base surrounding the current 911 system, identify its limitations, and search for opportunities to innovate alternative approaches. The project will convene a wide array of experts and community stakeholders, resulting in evidence-informed and actionable proposals and recommendations. Ultimately, the project will develop policy recommendations for local, state, and federal lawmakers and create blueprints to initiate systemic change of the nation’s emergency response system.
Transform911’s website will be a dynamic online hub for 911-related innovations, research, and opportunities.