Police are ill-equipped to safely and effectively serve people in behavioral health crisis. Even when officers receive training in crisis intervention and de-escalation, the mere presence of armed, uniformed police whose core function is criminal enforcement can exacerbate distress and escalate mental health-related situations. This threat is compounded in Black communities and other communities of color, where relationships with police are characterized by tension and distrust due to a long history of overpolicing and police violence.

Local governments and community-based organizations must engage new partners and fund innovative programs that shift away from police-led responses to behavioral health crises. Vera highlights the work of community-based approaches that can improve outcomes for people with behavioral health issues. We also work to build on the potential of these programs, identifying new opportunities to connect people who have health needs to supports without involving the police and amplifying efforts to advance equity in program development and implementation.

Project Objectives

  • Shrink policing’s footprint by uplifting strategies that reduce officer involvement in responding to people with mental illness and substance use disorders.

  • Assess racial disparities in the delivery of crisis response services and develop strategies to ensure equity in access to treatment as an alternative to arrest.

  • Strengthen community-led efforts to drive change by equipping local stakeholders with tools and resources that help them advocate for and develop community-based crisis response programs.