If people in the midst of a mental health crisis are not in a safe environment, they may behave in ways that require police intervention. Law enforcement officers are often encountered before, or instead of, the mental health services best suited to treat them.
Without access to mental health professionals, police officers are often unable to assist these individuals, and some may end up in jail as a result. Valuable law enforcement resources are underutilized as a result. Not. Case in point, the Bureau of Justice Statistics found that 43% of people incarcerated in state prisons have a mental illness, straining the limited capacity of detention facilities.
Communication between law enforcement and mental health services must be a top priority to ensure that people with mental health problems receive the care they need. Recognizing the importance of enhanced collaboration is a first step, but implementing it at scale requires leadership, technology, and continuous process improvement.
Mental Health Care: The Difficulty of Closing the Coverage Gap
There are several obstacles that health care systems must overcome in order to improve their response to mental health incidents.
The first is the general shortage of hospital beds and outpatient mental health care services. The United States “is facing an urgent and increasing shortage of psychiatric beds,” according to a new study from JAMA Psychiatry. Hundreds of patients are on waiting lists for available beds in Massachusetts, and more than 1,000 people found mentally unfit to stand trial in California, according to reports. He is currently in a correctional facility.
Additionally, these numbers are only for those whose information is already stored in our waiting list database. Finding a facility that can handle even a cursory assessment can be difficult for police officers responding to calls involving people with mental disorders.
The mental health training that police officers receive also varies widely by jurisdiction. Some police academies teach a wide range of ways to deal with people with mental health problems, while others pay less attention to the topic.
Another stumbling block is that police departments often lack a centralized and efficient means of communicating with local health authorities. This can be time-consuming and difficult for staff to connect to local facilities and see if there are spaces available for patients, even if they believe the individual is in need of mental health services. Many state and local agencies have internal communication mechanisms, but interagency coordination is often ineffective.
Coordinating mental health services
Better communication and cooperation between police and mental health services would be universally beneficial.
Mental health professionals are most likely to be successful in helping patients during or immediately after a mental health crisis and developing a plan to mitigate subsequent episodes.
If individuals could be evaluated and treated before being arrested or convicted, jurisdictions could alleviate some of the burdens faced by law enforcement and prison systems.
Finally, community well-being would be enhanced if more streamlined and compassionate systems were put in place to support vulnerable individuals, while prudent use of public funds.
Police are better served by establishing direct relationships with mental health agencies than by failing to arrest or imprison them. By connecting with mental health facilities and finding the best facility for your patients, you save time and energy that would otherwise be spent on law enforcement efforts.
However, this requires cooperation among multiple stakeholders. For example, if a police officer determines that an individual should be connected to mental health services, there is no guarantee that the local mental health facility will have beds available, even if the police officer is comfortable with it. As a result, police officers may have to wait long hours with patients before they can be safely transferred to the care of mental health professionals, effectively reducing the number of police officers available for other incidents. decreases.
Sharing data between law enforcement and mental health
Coordination among key internal and external stakeholders in the public and private sectors is essential for effective emergency management. A well-designed program that properly triages individuals should facilitate interaction, exchange of relevant data, and coordination of tasks among participants. With an incident management and response platform, departments can:
- Connect different data sources: Both police departments and medical professionals use their own industry-specific terminology. Technologies for incident management and response address this problem head-on by shining a spotlight on where it belongs: the mission objective of getting individuals to the right resources quickly, efficiently and professionally. I will work on it. A shared vocabulary, jointly developed by multiple stakeholders, helps parties reach agreement faster.
Almost every healthcare system, government agency, and police department operates with a variety of systems and workflows. A coordinated incident management platform can connect disparate workflow solutions to support the exchange of information between police officers, dispatchers, and medical professionals. In this way, stakeholders can easily share relevant information, such as bed availability data, to quickly find needed care for those experiencing a mental health crisis.
- Sharing information between jurisdictions: With a centralized incident management and response platform, law enforcement and mental health organizations can share information across jurisdictional boundaries and find resources such as beds and professionals. Both time and resources can be saved when a police officer answers a call about a person in distress and concludes that the person needs professional treatment. Local hospitals are full.
- Show ROI: By adopting the latest emergency workflow technology, state and local governments can easily share critical data with all key stakeholders. Instead of combining discrete data sources piecemeal to demonstrate value, web-based information management platforms allow law enforcement agencies to easily group data from a variety of discrete sources into one intuitive dashboard. can be This demonstrates ROI by reallocating law enforcement time to more productive uses and connecting individuals to the right resources more quickly. This will provide support for additional investment and further improve collaboration between police and mental health resources.
Commitment to Data Sharing for Patient Safety
Mental health professionals can connect with patients who are actively enduring or who have recently experienced a mental health crisis through a web-based solution that improves communication and information sharing. Instead of resorting to arrest or imprisonment, police often find that direct contact with mental health services is the most effective way to resolve cases involving vulnerable individuals.
Cloud-based emergency management software enables government agencies to improve teamwork and communication across jurisdictions without compromising sensitive patient information.
Greater collaboration between mental health professionals and law enforcement agencies through secure information-sharing platforms will improve patient safety, promote more efficient use of available resources, and improve the health of all communities. of people will benefit.
Next: Benefits of Hiring Social Workers in Law Enforcement
About the author
Akshay Birla is Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer. Jubaleis a provider of emergency management solutions for public and private organizations working to optimize their resilience strategies. He previously led Juvare’s public health and healthcare division. Juvare’s solutions are used across a wide range of industries including healthcare, aviation, education, utilities, state and local governments, federal agencies and government defense organizations.