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HOW NEW FEDERAL GUIDANCE FOR ALTERNATIVES TO POLICE FOR PEOPLE WITH BEHAVIORAL HEALTH OR OTHER DISABILITIES (830 hits)


For Immediate Release From Bazelon Center For Mental Health Law!
(A 5-Minute Read)


New Federal Guidance for Alternatives to Police for People with Behavioral Health or Other Disabilities


In guidance and public findings issued last year, the United States Departments of Justice (DOJ) and Health and Human Services (HHS) have made clear that federal law requires that people with behavioral health and other disabilities receive a health response—not a law enforcement response—in circumstances where others would receive a health response.1 This means that when someone experiences a mental health crisis, a health-focused team of workers with mental health expertise should be deployed instead of the police, just as an ambulance would be dispatched to help someone experiencing a physical health emergency. Any failure to do so violates the civil rights of people with disabilities.

The new federal guidance can be a useful tool for communities to implement a comprehensive community-based mental health system that can and will reduce violence against people with behavioral health disabilities, especially in Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) communities, which disproportionately experience the most negative impacts of policing.2 However, in implementing the guidance, states and localities must be careful to avoid an overly expansive view of when police involvement is appropriate. The guidance states that dispatching a co-responder team may be a “reasonable modification” in situations “where a police response is called for,” but without further clarification emergency response systems may continue to over-rely on police, thus falling short of the guidance’s potential.

The Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law and the Vera Institute of Justice urge the federal government to further explain and assert the need to expand non-police approaches and use data to reduce overreliance on law enforcement responses in these situations, and to back this up with increased and sustained investments in non-police crisis services that will help communities make changes consistent with federal law.

DOJ Findings Show the Risks of Unnecessary Police Encounters

The DOJ issued findings in June 2023 that the Minneapolis Police Department and the City of Minneapolis engage in a pattern or practice of conduct that violates the U.S. Constitution and federal law.4 The DOJ report comes in the wake of the murder of George Floyd and includes findings that Minneapolis’s police and emergency response systems discriminate against people with behavioral health disabilities.5 The DOJ found that Minneapolis unnecessarily deploys police in response to calls for help involving people with disabilities, a practice that is “often harmful and ineffective” and violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).6 People with disabilities, including those who are BIPOC, in Minneapolis experience significant harms from these unnecessary police encounters.7 As the report explains, the inappropriate deployment of police to these calls not only violates the law but can also cause or exacerbate trauma and increase stigma for people with disabilities.


New Guidance Is Long Overdue

In May 2023 DOJ and HHS issued guidance for state, tribal, and local officials on
responding to and interacting with people with behavioral health disabilities. The guidance describes practices for responding to crises experienced by people with mental health and substance use conditions and other disabilities, including intellectual, developmental, vision, and hearing disabilities.8 The agencies were required to issue the guidance by President Biden’s 2022 Executive Order on advancing effective and accountable policing.

As the guidance explains, as many as 10 percent of police calls involve people with
mental illness, who account for 20 to 25 percent of individuals killed by law
enforcement. Although representing only 22 percent of the population, persons with
disabilities may account for 30 to 50 percent of incidents of police use of force.

Read the full Guidance HERE!: https://www.bazelon.org/wp-content/uploads...

VISIT BAZELON CENTER FOR MENTAL HEALTH HERE!: bazelon.org
Posted By: agnes levine
Wednesday, January 31st 2024 at 1:07PM
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