News: Mental Health Training for Emergency Dispatchers

We received good news that promises to protect individuals who experience a mental health crisis and our communities.

Recently, we sponsored a bill (AB 680 from Assemblymember Kansen Chu) to increase training requirements for emergency dispatchers. The goal: to make sure that those answering and responding to our emergency calls know more about crisis intervention and mental health identification. We need both dispatchers and peace officers to be well-educated and -trained in how to respond to emergencies that involve people with mental health conditions, intellectual disabilities, or substance abuse disorders.

Sometimes we celebrate victories at the state capitol with the passing of policies like these, and sometimes we see the ripple effect with our efforts. While AB 680 didn’t advance during this legislative session, we heard from the Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) that they will work with us on plans to implement the emergency dispatcher training recommendations we made.

“We are happy that POST sees the value in this training and look forward to our continued work with the agency,” said our CEO, Jessica Cruz. “Families and individuals across California deserve the best supports when faced with a mental health crisis. This is a step in the right direction, and we commend POST for their leadership.”

We thank Assemblymember Chu for introducing the bill and to POST for recognizing the need to improve the quality of information provided to peace officers. “This is a clear victory for good policy. I am very pleased that POST is moving forward with training as prescribed in my bill, AB 680, even though the legislation did not pass this year,” said Assemblymember Chu. “Mental health support for those in need is a priority for me, and I’m glad it’s also important to POST. Dispatchers are usually the first point of contact in a crisis, and this training will help them alert responding officers to special circumstances, such as mental health crises. I want individuals with mental health struggles to get the help they need instead of being locked up.” 

With this promise of additional training, we can protect the safety of all people involved, including the individual in crisis, family members, first responders, and bystanders. With this and other efforts, we can reduce the number of people with mental health conditions involved with the criminal justice system. With this also comes the hope that this leads to more individuals and families receiving the mental health care they need.

When implemented, California will be the first state in the country to provide this level of training to all 911 dispatchers as part of their basic training course curriculum. 

Press release from Assemblymember Chu.


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