Statewide crisis intervention coordination plays a crucial role in addressing the intersection of law enforcement encounters and mental health crises. In today’s stressful world, mental illnesses during approximately 25% of their emergency calls. To aid them in better assisting those individuals, first responders are teaming up with behavioral health professionals to get treatment for those in crisis and avoid incarceration.
The CIT program is the most well-known of these programs and was developed in Memphis in 1988 as a collaboration between Memphis Police, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), mental health providers, the University of Memphis, and the University of Tennessee. According to Memphis Police Department’s website: “…this unique and creative alliance was established for the purpose of developing a more intelligent, understandable, and safe approach to mental crisis events.”
In many states across the U.S., coordinated efforts are being made at the state, federal, and local levels to address mental health challenges. While all of these come in many different forms, crisis intervention, mobile crisis response, alternative response, co-responder, and community response, they all have the same purpose of diverting people with mental illness away from jail.
Through these collaborations, crisis intervention programs provide better communication and greater empathy for those with mental health issues while ensuring officer and community safety.
Another diversion program is Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) which is a community-based diversion approach with the goals of improving public safety and public order and reducing unnecessary justice system involvement of people who participate in the program. A pre-booking diversion model allows law enforcement officers to redirect individuals with mental health or substance use disorders to community-based services rather than jail and prosecution.
By intercepting these individuals and channeling them into community-based interventions at the point of arrest or pre-arrest, LEAD disrupts the cycling of those individuals through the legal system. Instead, it helps them work toward achieving success and stability in the community. For example, King County, Washington, which includes the city of Seattle, is realizing great results with its program. It has assisted more than 20 other jurisdictions to learn how to work towards statewide crisis intervention coordination. Daniel Satterberg, King County’s Prosecutor, has stated that their program is “…about connections, not corrections, and it’s about help, not handcuffs.”
Empowering Collaboration and Interoperability: How King County’s LEAD Program Achieved Success
King County’s Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) program stands as a testament to the power of collaboration and interoperability in achieving remarkable success in addressing complex societal issues. By fostering partnerships between law enforcement, public health officials, community organizations, and other stakeholders, the LEAD program has been able to create a unified, multi-disciplinary approach to tackling drug addiction and criminal recidivism.
This innovative initiative leverages the strengths of each participating entity, paving the way for seamless communication and efficient resource allocation. The result is a more holistic and effective support system for at-risk individuals, which has led to significant reductions in arrests and recidivism rates.
By prioritizing cooperation and breaking down silos between agencies, King County’s LEAD program has demonstrated the immense potential of interdisciplinary collaboration in driving meaningful and sustainable change.
The Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs Supports Mental Health Field Response
The Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs (WASPC) is a unique entity in that it is the only association of its kind in the U.S. WASPC combines representatives from local, state, federal, and tribal law enforcement into a single unit, working toward a common goal.
They provide certain specific materials to every law enforcement agency in the state. They have developed a set of Principles of Community Trust that is to be followed by every law enforcement agency across the state. These principles include:
- Perceptions of Law Enforcement
- Rule of Law
- Deadly Force
- Criminal Justice Reform
- Behavioral Health
- Basic Law Enforcement Training
- Public Safety Funding
In 2021 WASPC awarded $4.8 million in grants to law enforcement agencies in the state for mental health response. Funding was provided through the Washington Legislature and the Washington Health Care Authority.
The grant was designated explicitly for programs with mental health professionals trained in crisis intervention who would be immediately available to officers when called. In addition, statewide crisis intervention coordination program plans must include a definitive plan for improving mental health field response and diversion from incarceration and have at least one mental health professional to perform field response behavioral health services.
The training necessary for mental health professionals is to be developed and provided by law enforcement agencies. The training must provide them with a working knowledge of law enforcement procedures and tools to provide for the safety of the professionals, the partnered police officers, and members of the public.
Monies will assist law enforcement agencies in establishing and expanding mental health response capability in 68 communities. Partnerships between officers and mental health professionals will work together to respond to situations involving mental health issues professionally, humanely, and safely.
In Pierce County, the grant provided the means to hire several additional crisis responders to its Co-Responder Unit. Sergeant Darren Moss talked about the importance of the unit: “We can call a mental health co-responder to come out, evaluate these people, try to get them better resources or just talk to them…and de-escalate them…We want to provide the best solutions possible, and so, if we have the opportunity, let’s call in the experts.”
Maximizing Efficiency and Outcomes: How WASPC Streamlines Data Collection and Enhances Care Coordination for Mental Health Response
The Julota platform was chosen as the vendor of choice by the WASPC for grant awardees. The use of Julota statewide across several agencies allows WASPC to view de-identified data collected in the system for all Grantee Agencies, enabling them to assess the efficacy of the programs.
The information collected can then be utilized for reporting purposes. Data entered into the system includes demographics, geographical information, available family support, and information specific to the current encounter.
Julota then provides customized features such as care plans, goals, and tasks necessary for the individual to get the care they need. The unique system allows officers, clinicians, and other community members to access the record to obtain pertinent information about the individual.
Implementing Julota’s solution has substantially reduced law enforcement response to mental health calls and shown a significant increase in co-responder response. The diversion programs also save the state a considerable amount on incarceration costs and long-term care.
Other benefits include improved care coordination, improved quality of care, reduced duplication of work and services, and identification of care gaps.
Julota Provides Real-Time Communication to Connect Individuals to Service
Julota is a dual-purpose case management and data collection platform that offers a CJIS, HIPAA, and 42 CFR Part 2 compliant environment for collaboration between law enforcement and community-based organizations. In addition, its real-time communication capabilities allow partners to connect individuals to appropriate services quickly and securely.
The platform is referral-based and tailored to each agency and community’s unique and specific needs, delivering the right information to the right person at the right time. Referrals are tracked between law enforcement and behavioral health and social services, providing geographic and demographic data, which helps to determine whether services are being successfully offered and accepted among all populations.
Julota’s no-login referrals help expedite community collaboration for officers and community partners. In addition, the SaaS (software as a service) solution allows jail diversion programs to analyze how well jail diversion tactics are working in the community.
Washington State Law Enforcement Agencies are Making a Difference in Mental Health Response
With help from the grants provided by WASPC, law enforcement agencies across Washington are making a difference in mental health response. It has become a model for what a statewide crisis response can look like. They understand that mental illness is not a crime but a leading public safety issue facing their state.
Approximately 1 out of 4 calls received by police relates to a mental health issue. As a result, law enforcement agencies are developing new programs like LEAD and the Mental Health Field Response (MHFR) model that pairs mental health professionals with officers to address these problems. As a result, agencies are seeing remarkable results.
Reports show officers’ reduced use of force and more frequent connections to appropriate services. For example, Olympia’s Familiar Faces program served 26 people last year and expects to serve 100 or more clients this year. In addition, through the Rediscovery Program in Port Angeles, a social worker embedded with officers for the past two years has been instrumental in diverting people from incarceration and expensive medical treatment. Throughout the MHFR program, over 1,200 people have been helped.
Mental health crisis intervention and response is the number one public safety issue facing the state of Washington. Although individuals experiencing a mental health crisis are not likely to be committing a crime, most communities still rely on law enforcement to respond.
Fortunately, the pairing of police officers with mental health professionals in programs is showing great success in statewide crisis intervention coordination. As a result, law enforcement is seeing a reduction in force during encounters and improved relations with the public.
The grant funding obtained through the WASPC organization allows them to focus on facilitating help where help is needed. For example, they can divert individuals to a more appropriate facility rather than booking someone into jail or having them taken to an emergency room. The $4.8 million investment has been presented to 14 law enforcement agencies in the state. For agencies in the State of Washington who are interested in applying for grants with WASPC, you can apply here.