We see a headline in the news and think, Oh, no, not again. An individual experiencing a mental health crisis — a medical emergency — is injured or killed in a confrontation with law enforcement.
Each time, it is a personal tragedy. Each time, it is someone’s child or parent or sibling or partner. Each time, it is a future denied. While the circumstances are different each time, the loss feels familiar.
One loss, and then another. We see those reports and are reminded about our broken system. We are reminded about how our society has let down individuals and families once again.
A mental health crisis deserves a mental health response.
Now here are the headlines you don’t see: individuals in jail or prison when they should be receiving mental health treatment. Individuals living with serious mental illness who are released from jail or prison without the support they need to survive and thrive. We know too many who are handcuffed and locked up when they should be hospitalized and treated.
When our loved ones call for help, they need the right kind of help. Many times, they need help, not handcuffs.
We know there are solutions.
We need more trained first responders and law enforcement agents who understand mental health crisis management. We already have partnerships with local law enforcement to train officers on safe interactions with individuals experiencing a mental health crisis and we are providing police officers with mental health support. We have begun the hard work to ensure safety for mentally ill individuals and their families — and our communities. Now, we must step up our collective efforts to implement better policies to improve our systems and services.
Here is how you can help.
Your support will help us fight for more:
- Education about mental health for community members and those working in our criminal justice and legal systems
- Training of law enforcement and emergency dispatchers to distinguish criminal behavior from the behavior of an individual in a mental health crisis
- Humane and appropriate treatment programs for individuals with mental illness in jail and prison settings
- Diversion programs for individuals with mental illness charged with non-violent crimes
- Discharge and reintegration services and support for mentally ill individuals being released from correctional facilities
We could not succeed without the support of our members. Together, we can ensure that more individuals in need of mental health treatment do not end up in the criminal justice system. Thank you for your membership and support.