From MedPage Today: “Mobile crisis teams and peer support services can help to serve those struggling with a mental health crisis and connect them to care, but can they replace police?
As calls for defunding the police increase, the question has become even more timely and was front and center at a hearing on Thursday of the Subcommittee on Criminal Justice and Counterterrorism for the Senate Judiciary Committee, which focused on policing and behavioral health.
Among both the subcommittee members and the other witnesses, there appeared to be broad support for improving police training in deescalation tactics and for engaging mobile crisis teams and other types of support. Some witnesses, however, questioned the ability of mobile teams to safely address and quickly respond to high-risk situations.
‘The purpose of the hearing is to talk about changes we need to make when it comes to how we as an overall society are going to respond to people dealing with mental health crisis,’ said Subcommittee Chair Cory Booker (D-N.J.).
Police officers have become de facto social workers, mental health counselors, and medical experts, as they are often called on to respond to individuals in the throes of a mental health crisis, but most police have neither the training nor the skills to address these problems, Booker said.
As a result, situations can escalate quickly, he said, noting that people with ‘untreated’ ‘mental illness’ are 16 times more likely to be killed during a police encounter compared with the general public.”