Police Are the First to Respond to Mental Health Crises. They Shouldn’t Be
Midsection of policeman in uniform standing against car

Last year, the mental health nonprofit Treatment Advocacy Center found that one in three people taken to hospital emergency rooms in psychiatric crises are brought there by the police. Law enforcement drove 5,424,212 miles transporting people with serious mental illness—a distance greater than circling the earth 217 times.

Police are not qualified for this responsibility. A survey by the Police Executive Research Forum found that officers received an average of eight hours dedicated to “Crisis Intervention Training” (CIT)—a mental health training program with promising but mixed results, according to research.

Police also don’t have a great track record of de-escalating situations with mentally ill people, who are 16 times more likely to be killed by police officers. One in four people killed by police in 2015 had a serious mental illness, a Washington Post investigation found. And when mental illness intersects with racial prejudices, it’s a sinister combination. “It’s often said that the criminal justice system is the mental health system for Black men,” said Gregg Bloche, a health policy expert and a professor of law at Georgetown University.

A rallying cry emerging from the recent nationwide protests against police brutality is to “defund the police,” or, use money dedicated to police departments to pay for other social welfare initiatives. Mental health programs are a top candidate—CIT, preventative mental health services, more psychiatric beds, and, importantly, alternative response teams to respond to 911 mental health calls.

Some law enforcement officers around the country agree that they’re spending disproportionate amounts of their time and money on mental health, when it’s not their place to do so. “Philosophically, using law enforcement authority to arrest someone as a means to seek mental healthcare is just simply wrong,” said Dave Mahoney, the sheriff of Madison, Wisconsin.

Read more in Vice.

This is an external article from our library

Everyone is talking about caregiving, but it can still be difficult to find meaningful information and real stories that go deep. We read (and listen to and watch and look at) the best content about caregiving and bring you a curated selection.

Have a great story about care work? Use our contact form to submit it to us so we can share it with the community!

Related Articles

Popular categories

After Caregiving
Finding Meaning
Finding Support

Don't see what you're looking for? Search the library

Share your thoughts


Share your thoughts and experiences

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Join our communities

Whenever you want to talk, there’s always someone up in one of our Facebook communities.

These private Facebook groups are a space for support and encouragement — or getting it off your chest.

Join our newsletter

Thoughts on care work from Cori, our director, that hit your inbox each Monday morning (more-or-less).

There are no grand solutions, but there are countless little ways to make our lives better.

Share your insights

Caregivers have wisdom and experience to share. Researchers, product developers, and members of the media are eager to understand the nature of care work and make a difference.

We have a group specifically to connect you so we can bring about change.