The recent report issued by the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice that condemned several police practices in Baltimore has been widely discussed, but the fact that encounters between police and mentally ill people result in violent episodes has received little attention. The Huffington Post reported an article to address this issue, and it highlights the need for the implementation of multiple methods to improve interactions between police officers and people with mental illness for the benefit of both parts.
The DOJ report details incidents of unsafe police practices even years after Behavioral Health System Baltimore, in collaboration with BDP, incorporated new aspects of basic training to ensure that interactions with mentally ill people are harmless and “mutually beneficial.” BPD partnered with the National Alliance on Mental Illness and adopted the Crisis Intervention Teams (CIT) to provide more specialized training to select officers, according to the Huffington Post.
But most police departments across the country have not started to implement the changes already instituted in Baltimore. The Huffington Post noted that the Portland Police Department takes into account many different aspects needed to improve such encounters but still serves as a reminder that the only way to achieve the goal is to understand a series of key elements.
The article describes leadership as a value that must be taught given the importance of thoughtful responses to mentally ill patients. This value is essential to increase officer safety. However, police officers are not the only ones to be held responsible. Administrators of health systems must also do their part by prioritizing work with law enforcement.
Officers must be trained to identify symptoms of mental illnesses and have what it takes to handle tough situations with someone in crisis. The article continues to highlight the need for crisis care response and notes that officers should have the necessary skills to take a person with evident mental health needs to the nearest 24/7 facility. Officers must make sure that healthcare providers will unconditionally serve the individual in need. Mobile crisis teams could also be helpful, as well as emergency rooms.
Another element that is key to solving the problem is the continuity of care. A system of care must ensure that an individual who has a substance use disorder will stay connected to treatment and receive supportive services.
The combination of forces is required
There are about 18,000 independent local law enforcement agencies across the United States but in many rural communities, these services do not exist. Last year, 25 percent of uses of lethal force by police involved a mentally ill person.
Both police and behavioral health are responsible for reaching solutions by working together following people’s needs in each community. The goal is to ensure the safety of officers and warrant that people will be protected and receive the help they require when they need it.
Source: The Huffington Post