A message from Police Foundation President Jim Bueermann:
I am pleased to share the news that the 21st Century Cures Act passed the House of Representatives last night with an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote of 392-26. As I shared previously, the bill, while primarily focused on medical innovation, contains critical provisions on criminal justice. I was most pleased by inclusion of a provision that would provide for the creation of a National Criminal Justice and Mental Health Training Center, which would coordinate best practices on responding to mental illness in the criminal justice system and provide technical assistance to governmental agencies.
Here’s a list of 7 things the bill does to support law enforcement:
1. Law Enforcement Training – Authorizes resources for police responses to individuals with mental illness and de-escalation training.
2. National Criminal Justice and Mental Health Training Center – Creates a new center to coordinate best practices on responding to individuals with mental illness in the criminal justice system and provide technical assistance to governmental agencies.
3. Diversion Programs – Allows state and local governments to use grant funds on programs to divert individuals with mental illness and co-occurring disorders from prisons and jails.
4. Crisis Intervention Teams – Expands resources available to state and local governments to develop and operate school-based mental health crisis intervention teams that include coordination with law enforcement agencies.
5. Focus on Evidence-Based Research – Requires the Department of Justice to prioritize grant applications to those who use evidence-based interventions and risk assessment tools to reduce recidivism.
6. Mental Health Response and Corrections Programs – Allows funds from existing federal grant programs to be used in new ways, such as on specialized mental health response training like crisis de-escalation techniques.
7. Active-Shooter Training – Permanently authorizes the VALOR Initiative to provide crisis training and active-shooter training for federal, state and local law enforcement officials.
8. Reauthorization of the Mentally Ill Offender Treatment and Crime Reduction Act (MIOTCRA) – an essential funding mechanism that supports the use of mental health courts and crisis intervention teams in local law enforcement agencies. The bill would extend MIOTCRA, effectively filling critical gaps in the system, including providing additional resources for veterans’ treatment courts to help those suffering from behavioral or post-traumatic stress disorders.
This bill is a needed step along the way to strengthening our nation’s criminal justice system and ensuring that people with mental illness are treated well by it. Law enforcement professionals are a huge part of the system and I am glad that the bill recognized this and provided solid policy provisions designed to aid the community in its work each day.
Fortunately, Police Foundation was at the table in crafting these important provisions, having worked with key champions on the Hill to advance this work and having sent a letter of support. Thank you to those who lent their names to that effort. I look forward to keeping you updated as we follow the bill’s progress through the Senate and then onward to the President for his signature, which we hope to see finalized within the next two weeks.
Chief Jim Bueermann (Ret.)