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After Newtown: Policing and Mental Health Experts Meet to Develop Prevention Model for Mental Health-Related Gun Violence

On January 14, 2013, in the first of a series of meetings we will host on critical issues facing the police and the communities they serve, the Police Foundation convened a distinguished group of experts from the law enforcement, science, mental health, and policy arenas to focus on mental health-related gun violence.

Drawing upon a multidisciplinary body of knowledge, which establishes the extreme difficulty in predicting a violent act, the expert group distilled existing research into a framework that combines prevention and intervention strategies to give communities and the police a path to preventing mental health-related shootings rather than simply responding to the scene of yet another tragedy.

The group assembled the first iteration of a Community Crisis Early Intervention System to help avert future tragedies and to get those suffering with mental illness the help they need. By developing a systemic approach that weaves this knowledge together in a straightforward, practical manner, the group hopes to provide the police and the communities they serve with practical, no-to-low cost recommendations that can be quickly implemented.

The three things every police chief and sheriff should know about preventing mental health-related gun violence are:

  1. The police should create local partnerships with mental health service providers, school officials, and appropriate community groups to develop a mental health crisis response capacity;
  2. Police chiefs and sheriffs should use the bully pulpit afforded them to keep community focus on the need for mental health services and convene local service providers and community members to enhance knowledge about local needs, services, and the science of mental illness and gun violence; and
  3. Police chiefs and sheriffs should adopt policies and practices that help reduce the availability of firearms to people in mental health crisis, institutionalize mental health training for their officers, and facilitate community-wide “mental health first aid” training for all community members.

In addition to the Police Foundation, the following organizations participated in the roundtable discussion: American Psychological Association; National Institute of Mental Health; US Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Assistance, Civil Rights Division, Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, and FBI Behavioral Science Unit; International Association of Chiefs of Police; Police Executive Research Forum; Mothers Against Drunk Driving;  National Council for Behavioral Health; Office of New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez; Fight Crime: Invest in Kids; US Department of Homeland Security; New Haven CT Police Department; Montgomery County MD Police Department; and researchers from George Mason University’s Center for Evidence-Based Crime Policy, the University of Maryland, Johns Hopkins University, University of Virginia, and West Virginia University.


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