Effective data sharing is at the heart of successful law enforcement behavioral health programs. Accessing appropriate and timely information at the point of service is crucial to ensuring effective responses to individuals in a mental health crisis.
When officers have essential information about a person’s condition and treatment history readily available, they are better positioned to respond appropriately when quick-decision making is critical.
A growing number of law enforcement and behavioral health agencies are partnering together to implement innovative technology to improve encounters with individuals with mental health conditions. These partnerships are helping to close the gap of inequity among this population to ensure that individuals get the right services at the right time.
The problems of unnecessary hospitalizations and incarceration show significant reduction through efficient, secure data sharing among agencies. While the challenges facing law enforcement agencies are unique to each, there are five common reasons why data sharing is key to effective Law Enforcement Behavioural Health Programs:
- It helps to ensure the safety of individuals and police officers
- It helps to identify frequent utilizers
- It helps to divert people from the criminal justice system,
- It helps to assess the appropriateness of responses, and
- It helps to assess the success of the program.
Law enforcement behavioral health programs help to ensure the safety of individuals and police officers
Calls for mental health services account for approximately 20% of emergency calls and are among the most time-consuming and complex calls for law enforcement. These encounters can be quite problematic and result in unnecessary arrests if law enforcement has no other alternative.
Data sharing between agencies can provide officers with valuable information about an individual, helping them to better understand and interpret crisis behavior. As a result, they respond more appropriately, ensuring the greater safety of the individual and the officer.
Studies of law enforcement behavioral health programs, known as Police-Mental Health Collaborations (PMHC), have shown that they are also less likely to use force, and if force is required, they rely on non-lethal methods. In many cases, increased verbal negotiation was the highest level of force used, resulting in increased referrals to mental health units or situations being resolved on scene.
Law enforcement behavioral health programs such as the Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) have been implemented in over 2,700 communities nationwide and have enjoyed remarkable success in officer and community safety. In addition, these programs establish connections between law enforcement, mental health providers, emergency services, and people with mental illness and their families.
Officers receive intensive training in behavioral health crises and can identify resources for support and recovery through community partnerships. In conjunction with the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), the National Council for Behavioral Health, and Policy Research Associates, Inc., CIT International has created a Best Practice Guide for Transforming Community Responses to Mental Health Crises. It is the first comprehensive guide for communities to establish best practices for starting and sustaining CIT programs.
Having a technology platform that can provide law enforcement with pertinent information about an individual when responding to a crisis call is paramount. Additionally, tracking and sharing case management details with other entities means that a police officer can respond to a situation with practical tactics and resources.
Julota’s Software as a Service (SaaS) platform provides immediate access to such vital information in real-time. It is a cloud-computing solution, meaning that when one organization puts out a message for all responders, the information comes through the same source, reducing the risk of lost information.
It helps to identify frequent utilizers
People who repeatedly cycle through emergency rooms, jails, and other assistance programs, are often identified as “super-utilizers.” Individuals with mental health issues and substance use disorders are common among this group.
These frequent utilizers are unique in that they cycle through multiple systems and frequently have a combination of issues such as mental illness, addiction, and chronic health problems. Therefore, using shared data to identify them and provide an appropriate response to their needs can result in meaningful outcomes for the individuals, their families, and the community.
To address the challenges of frequent utilizer’s present and provide more effective treatment, jurisdictions across the country have joined Data-Driven Justice (DDJ) – a project of the National Association of Counties (NACO) and Arnold Ventures. The project’s goal is to integrate data from law enforcement, healthcare, behavioral health, and social service providers to identify these individuals and find more coordinated, holistic ways to meet their needs.
The DDJ project was initiated by the Obama Administration in 2016 and began by partnering with 67 city, county, and state governments and has grown to include 10 states, 93 counties, 42 cities, and 5 city/country consolidations that collectively represent over 94 million people.
The law enforcement behavioral health programs help to divert people from the criminal justice system
An essential element of law enforcement behavioral health programs is the ability to help divert people experiencing a mental health crisis into treatment rather than the Criminal Justice System. Effective data sharing makes it more likely that officers will correctly identify individuals and divert them to applicable crisis services rather than jail.
Those who are connected to mental health treatment by officers are less likely to engage in unlawful or disruptive behaviors and experience fewer subsequent arrests than those not receiving appropriate services.
Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) programs have shown considerable promise as a way for law enforcement to respond to problems resulting from substance use and mental illness that reduce reliance on the criminal justice system. In place of the normal justice system cycle, such as detention, prosecution, and incarceration, the program allows police officers to use discretionary authority at the point of contact to divert individuals into a trauma case-management program.
There they will receive a range of support services, and police and prosecutors work closely with case managers to maximize the participant’s success in achieving behavioral change. The success of the LEAD program has resulted in stronger alliances and more positive relationships between law enforcement and people who are frequently a focus of police attention.
Reliable data sharing is a must for an effective LEAD program. Julota’s data-sharing platform provides a simple, accessible user interface that allows organizations to share data effectively and improve the likelihood of your program’s success. In addition, users can access Julota on their own devices, such as a smartphone or tablet, in real-time. No special hardware or extensive user training is required, which means that your programs’ case management team always has just-in-time access.
Helps to assess the appropriateness of responses
Establishing baseline data such as the number of mental health calls a police department is experiencing is a vital starting point for indicators of a successful program. Accurate shared data can then be used to assess the appropriateness of responses to those calls and troubleshoot any possible challenges. Therefore, program data such as the number of calls for service involving mental health, number of referrals to behavioral health care providers, use of force, or arrest/citation should be collected and analyzed regularly for the most effective results.
The sharing of data can also assist communities in creating a comprehensive system of care across the criminal justice and healthcare sectors. It can likewise help increase the understanding of the specific types of mental health and substance use disorders affecting a community.
It helps to assess the success of the program
The collection and sharing of vital data can help law enforcement assess the success of their program by illustrating what is working, what needs to change, and which stated outcomes are being met. For example, vital information concerning the number of arrests and diversions, frequency of use of force, the total number of repeat encounters, and referrals to care can be used to measure progress.
These assessments can also help determine whether law enforcement and partner agencies are responding safely and appropriately to behavioral health needs in the community. Evaluation of this data can help determine whether the program is functioning as intended and meeting its goals.
Stakeholders can easily determine whether a proper transition from crisis contact to care occurs and whether positive collaboration between agencies occurs. Using this data to improve the program continually can facilitate funding efforts and keep the program sustainable.
Communities across the United States are transforming how they address behavioral health issues. For example, collaboration and shared data between law enforcement agencies provide an improved experience for those experiencing a mental health crisis. Programs such as Crisis Intervention Teams (CIT), Police-Mental Health Collaborations (PMHC), and Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) teams are demonstrating their dedication to the belief that “Mental health crises deserve a mental health response.”
Through appropriate training, they are stepping up to de-escalate people in crisis, establish rapport and connect them to treatment and support, averting possibly dangerous situations. Their efforts are indeed showing results: individuals with mental illness who were received behavioral health treatment after being referred by law enforcement experience fewer subsequent encounters with the criminal justice system than those who were not referred to treatment.