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- Serving Safely – A Program for Enhancing Collaborative Police Responses to People with Mental Illness and Developmental Disabilities
Serving Safely – A Program for Enhancing Collaborative Police Responses to People with Mental Illness and Developmental Disabilities
A disproportionate number of people who interact with the criminal justice system are persons with mental health disorders and intellectual and developmental disabilities, often prompting specialized responses from law enforcement and criminal justice agencies. The Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) and its partners in the justice and mental health fields have developed programs and resources to assist jurisdictions in interacting with and managing justice-involved people with mental illness and intellectual and developmental disabilities, from the Justice and Mental Health Collaboration Program and the National Center on Criminal Justice and Disability to the Stepping Up Initiative and the Police-Mental Health Collaboration Toolkit. Serving Safely: The National Initiative to Enhance Policing for Persons with Mental Illnesses and Developmental Disabilities – BJA’s latest partnership with the Vera Institute of Justice – offers an additional resource for police departments, sheriffs’ departments, prosecutors’ offices, and community members.
Serving Safely offers a one-stop center for police departments and other criminal justice agencies to learn how to design responses that enhance outcomes of interactions between police and people with mental illness and intellectual and developmental disabilities through collaboration with mental health service providers, families, and peers. The initiative aims to:
- Ensure law enforcement officers are equipped with the necessary tools, resources, and practices to respond safely and effectively to calls for service, increasing both community safety and officer safety;
- Offer training and technical assistance (TTA) to criminal justice professionals – including police, emergency dispatchers, and legal and victim service professionals – designed to help agencies develop and implement policies and solutions that lead to better responses to incidents involving people with mental illness and intellectual and developmental disabilities; and
- Develop a community of practice for police responses to people with mental illness and intellectual and developmental disabilities.
To accomplish these goals, Vera has created a multidisciplinary team of leaders from a variety of fields, including policing, prosecution, mental health, intellectual and developmental disabilities, crisis intervention, emergency medicine, and technology development. Together, BJA, Vera, and partner organizations will help police and justice agencies connect people with mental illness and intellectual and developmental disabilities to treatment services, assist prosecutors with alternatives to jail when appropriate, and build police-community partnerships to effectively respond to people with mental illness and intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Serving Safely’s consortium of TTA partners currently includes:
- American College of Emergency Physicians;
- The Arc;
- CIT International;
- Jane Addams College of Social Work, University of Illinois, Chicago;
- National Alliance on Mental Illness;
- National Disability Rights Network;
- Prosecutors’ Center for Excellence; and
- Subject experts Dr. Amy Watson; Dr. Michael Compton; Meredith Hitchcock; Katherine Nammacher; Melissa Reuland; and Ron Wilhelmy, Retired Assistant Commissioner, New York City, New York Police Department.
To learn more about this innovative program, read the Serving Safely fact sheet.
To submit the work of your organization or jurisdiction for consideration to be featured in a future BJA National Training and Technical Assistance Center (NTTAC) TTA Spotlight, please email BJANTTAC@ojp.usdoj.gov.
If your agency or community is interested in responses to people with mental illness or intellectual and developmental disabilities, or would like to apply for technical assistance, please contact BJA NTTAC at BJANTTAC@ojp.usdoj.gov to discuss your unique criminal justice needs.