What is it about?

How a community responds to behavioral health (BH) emergencies is both a public health issue and a social justice issue. Too often, people in BH crisis end up in fatal police encounters, arrested, or warehoused in emergency rooms, sometimes for days. There is momentum for change - from justice reform movements, racial equity advocacy, the new 988 mental health hotline going live in 2022. This paper provides guidance for policymakers, advocates, and service providers interested in improving how their community responds and provides healthcare to those with mental health and substance use emergencies.

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The current system for responding to behavioral health emergencies is broken. A quarter of police-involved shooting deaths are linked to mental illness and the prevalence of behavioral health conditions in jails and prisons are 3-4x that of the general population. These problems are magnified for people of color. Most emergency rooms are not equipped to provide BH treatment, and people may "board" for hours or days waiting to be transferred to a psychiatric facility. We wouldn't tolerate such poor and inconsistent care for people with medical emergencies! Fortunately, there is momentum for change converging from several different directions - a new 988 mental health emergency number is going live in 2022, and social justice movements such as BLM are prompting communities to look for alternative ways to respond to BH emergencies. This paper reviews the evidence for various models of BH emergency response and discusses policy considerations to support a BH crisis system that provide care for individuals experiencing a BH crisis.

Dr. Margie Balfour
Connections Health Solutions

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Cops, Clinicians, or Both? Collaborative Approaches to Responding to Behavioral Health Emergencies, Psychiatric Services, June 2022, American Psychiatric Association, DOI: 10.1176/appi.ps.202000721.
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