January 24, 2021—The National Police Foundation, with funding support from Arnold Ventures, recently published the results from a national survey that examined how small law enforcement agencies are preparing for incidents involving persons in crisis as a result of mental health or substance abuse issues.
Police frequently respond to calls involving persons with behavioral health needs, particularly those with mental illnesses and/or substance use disorders. These calls are often time-consuming and potentially dangerous for officers and the persons experiencing crisis. Large and medium-sized law enforcement agencies have increasingly adopted specialized police response models, such as Crisis Intervention Teams (CIT) and Co-responder programs, that entail collaboration between law enforcement, mental health agencies, and medical facilities. However, little is known about the adoption of specialized responses by small agencies with fewer resources, less occasion to see persons in crisis, and fewer nearby mental health facilities.
Between February and October of 2020, NPF distributed a national survey to a random sample of 380 municipal police and sheriff’s offices with between 10 and 75 sworn officers. The survey aimed to explore the extent to which small law enforcement agencies have adopted specialized response models for dealing with calls involving persons in crisis, the amount of training provided in this area among small agencies, and what percentage of small agencies employ CIT-certified officers or are part of a regional CIT partnership.