Alternatives to Police – 2022

The Spring 2022 Law & Mental Health Conference was held in cooperation with the Alternative Mobile Services Association on Alternatives to Police – February 1 & 2, 2022.

Conference sessions included presentations from both new and currently operating mobile services, with detailed information about team operations, staff development, field services, integration with emergency services and law enforcement, innovation and inspiration.


Moki Macias has served as the Executive Director of the Atlanta-based Policing Alternatives & Diversion Initiative (PAD) since its launch in 2017. PAD reduces arrest and incarceration for activities related to mental health, substance use and extreme poverty through two strategies: immediate alternative to arrest for individuals detained by police, and alternate harm reduction response to community referrals through the City of Atlanta 311 line. Moki received her Master’s Degree in City and Regional Planning from the Georgia Institute of Technology, and has spent over 15 years engaged in community organizing, program design and advocacy related to criminal justice reform and community development.


Laurel Lisovskis, LCSW
CAHOOTS Clinical Supervision Coordinator
Sara Stroo
CAHOOTS Crisis Worker & Clinical Supervisor

Taking Care: Cahoots Clinical Supervision

The CAHOOTS team is a part of White Bird Clinic, a collective in Eugene Oregon. We use a peer supervision model at the clinic and utilize a non-hierarchical structure. Even without traditional supervisors we have embraced a model of clinical supervision because it serves to generate the critical thinking that our crisis workers must have. Their scope of practice includes a wide skill set and they accumulate deep grief and trauma on a daily basis. In this presentation we will talk about how we use clinical supervision, chart review and debrief spaces both to deepen our knowledge of the work we do and to care for ourselves.

Eric Rafla-Yuan, MD
APA Jeanne Spurlock Congressional Fellow at U.S. House of Representatives

Psychiatric Emergency Response: Shifting from Threat Control to Treatment

Prior to the 1970s, police responded to the majority of 911 calls for medical emergencies in the US. Surging preventable deaths led to the development of the emergency medical service (EMS) model we rely on today, modeled after the Freedom House Ambulance Service by the Black community in Pittsburgh. More than 50 years later, psychiatric emergencies continue to be abdicated to law enforcement, continuing decades of criminalization of mental illness. Psychiatrist Eric Rafla-Yuan, MD will review how the recent congressional mandate for a new 988 number for mental health crises provides an opportunity for developing a more equitable and effective emergency psychiatric response system.

Ken “Khensu” Carter, MD, LAc
President of the National Acupuncture Detoxification Association

NADA style approach and procedure: ear acupressure leads the way in complementing self and population-based care

Ear acupressure treatment enhances capacity to care for everyone regardless of legal or mental health status. It supports the work of law enforcement officers, parole officers, peer support specialists, counselors, social service workers, lawyers and judges. It helps users perform the work already being done with greater ease, flexibility and less likelihood of stress burnout. When personnel treat the consumers they serve, the work goes better and outcomes are better for everyone.

Paul Pazen
Denver Chief of Police

Developing a Comprehensive Alternative Response Program

In a time when many are calling for the reimagining of public safety, alternative response programs offer law enforcement agencies an opportunity to better address complex, chronic social issues while freeing officers for greater acuity calls.

Utilizing mental health professionals to respond to certain call types increases long-term success for individuals and decreases call volume from high-resource utilizers. The presenters will discuss relevant data highlighting the need, the comprehensive plan developed by Denver leaders, and why this collaborative work is important for communities agencies to engage in.

Taleed El-Sabawi
Elon University School of Law

A Model Statute for Non-Police Behavioral Health Crisis Response Teams

Dr. Taleed El-Sabawi an Assistant Professor of law at Elon University who teaches Property Law, Wills & Trusts, Addiction Law & Policy and Public Health Law. She is an interdisciplinary scholar, with a JD from the University of Texas School of Law and a PhD in Public Health, Health Services Management and Policy with a doctoral cognate in Political Science from the Ohio State University. She specializes in the use of qualitative and quantitative methods to analyze texts, including congressional hearing testimony, regulations, legislation, news media, political speeches and interview transcripts.

Her area of expertise is in addiction and mental health policy, politics and law. Dr. El-Sabawi has studied and written extensively on legislative decision-makinginterest group mobilization (including law enforcement lobbying) and narrative discourse surrounding opioid overdose deaths; addiction policy history, specifically as it relates to federal administrative regulation of potentially habit-forming substances; and substance use disorder treatment financing parity. Recently, Dr. El-Sabawi co-authored a model law that creates non-police behavioral health crisis response teams and has been assisting grassroots advocacy groups in developing narrative strategies to garner political support for the reform of institutions that perpetuate racial violence. Dr. El-Sabawi has also co-authored a number of articles appearing in public health and medical journals.

Kaia Sand
Executive Director of Street Roots

Re-imagining Public Safety: Portland Street Response

This presentation will cover advocacy for creating a non-police first responser system in Portland, Portland Street Response, that responds to street crises with a medic and a crisis worker. Learning from the White Bird program CAHOOTS and recognizing the political opportunity for action, the non-profit newspaper Street Roots steered from publishing an editorial to producing a special issue laying out the plan. Street Roots is sold by vendors, people experiencing homelessness and poverty, and engages in advocacy in addition to the newspaper. Because of this, the organization was able to shift from its newspaper to an advocacy campaign for the city to implement Portland Street Response.

Dominique Jones MA, LMFT
Minnesota Department of Human Services

Mobile Mental Health Crisis Services in Minnesota

This presentation will provide an overview of the crisis delivery system in Minnesota which is a state-funded and county-administered service. The presentation will highlight the ways in which crisis services are both accessed and delivered.

Ashley Krider, MS
Policy Research Associates

Unbundling Police Funding and Building the Right Response

Prompted by recent cries for law enforcement reform across the U.S., many jurisdictions have made or pledged significant changes to law enforcement funding, frequently allocating additional funding to behavioral health and community services. Many jurisdictions are exploring and expanding community-based options as alternatives to police response to individuals with behavioral health needs in particular. This session will provide an overview of the migration of law enforcement funding in both small and large jurisdictions across the country. We will also discuss the traditional dual role of law enforcement across Intercepts 0-1 of the Sequential Intercept Model and the importance of building community capacity while decreasing the footprint of the criminal justice system, in order to work toward true system change.

Carleigh Sailon, LCSW, LAC
Denver’s STAR Program

Support Team Assisted Response (STAR): Sending The Right Response to 9-1-1 Calls in Denver

Support Team Assisted Response (STAR) is a civilian response program in Denver, CO that has been running as a pilot program since June 1st, 2020 and pairs a licensed mental health clinician with a medic/EMT. This team responds to low level, low risk 9-1-1 calls and strives to provide a new response option in the city of Denver aside from traditional fire/police/EMS. This presentation will discuss the model, lessons learned, partnership with law enforcement, call triage procedures and plans for city wide expansion. STAR has seen tremendous success in Denver throughout the pilot program and builds on a long standing co-responder program that has paired licensed clinicians with Denver Police officers since 2016. STAR focuses on sending the right response when a community member calls 9-1-1 and is in crisis or needs assistance and acts as a force multiplier for police, fire and ambulances.

David Harris
Urban Strategies Council

Developing Non-Police Alternative Programs for Non-Violent/Non-Health Emergency 911-Calls

In 2019 the research and recommendations of Oakland’s Urban Strategies Council helped form and shape the new pilot of Mobile Assistance Community Responders of Oakland (MACRO). Launched this Spring, the MACRO Program is a community response program for non-violent 911 calls. The goal is to reduce responses by police, resulting in fewer arrests and negative interactions, and increased access to community-based services and resources for impacted individuals and families, and most especially for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color.

Urban Strategies Council CEO David Harris will help us understand how an outside BIPOC social justice organization led the community-wide discussion to fund, build, and operate Oakland’s new alternative to policing.

Ann Kitchen
Austin Texas City Councilor

Public Safety Response to Mental Health Crises: The AustinCARES Program

Building on the concept of diverting calls for assistance from a law enforcement to a mental health care response when appropriate, AustinCARES is a program also designed to aid police in potentially volatile situations to help avoid a tragic outcome and connect people in crisis to sustainable, longer term care. Austin Texas City Council Member Ann Kitchen will highlight key policy considerations and challenges in the development, implementation and operation of a data driven program engaging multiple agencies responding to mental health crises, increasing the chances of a positive health outcome.

Mariela Ruiz-Angel, MSW, MBA
City of Albuquerque Community Safety Department

Ms. Ruiz-Angel’s presentation will give an overview of what Albuquerque’s Community Safety Department does, including it’s mobile outreach team, how it has impacted public safety through data, community engagement, and future outcomes.

Albuquerque uses of a public health model with a non-law enforcement-led response which allows 911 dispatch to send trained professionals with backgrounds in behavioral and mental health and social services to non-violent and non-medical calls.

The goal of ACS is to deliver the right response at the right time and to improve access to the broad range of social services from government and community-based organizations.

Amy Watson, PhD
University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee

If not police, who should respond? And what skills do they need?

In the United States and elsewhere, law enforcement has been called on to take primary responsibility for addressing behavioral health crises in both counties and cities. However, in recent years, dissatisfaction with this arrangement across all stakeholders has led to calls to reduce or eliminate law enforcement involvement in behavioral health crisis response. This then begs the question of who should respond? Our goal is a model that accommodates safety concerns, is scalable, and provides rapid career entry for peers and individuals from communities most impacted by over-policing.

Jackson Beck & Jason Tan de Bibiana
Vera Institute of Justice

Race, Equity, and Behavioral Health Crisis Alternatives: Strategies for the Shift from Police to Community Responses

Communities have long relied on police to manage behavioral health crises despite the harms of policing and persistently unmet needs of people with substance use and mental health issues, particularly in Black and brown communities that have historically faced underinvestment in community-based services and supports. In response to demands for systemic change following George Floyd’s murder in May 2020—as well as the tragic killings of Daniel Prude, Walter Wallace Jr., and far too many others experiencing behavioral health crises—jurisdictions across the country have pursued civilian crisis response programs as a step toward narrowing the scope of policing and strengthening pathways to care outside of the criminal legal system. At the same time, programs must center equity across planning, implementation, and evaluation to ensure they are adequately serving the needs of those communities that have been disproportionately harmed by status quo approaches.

Drawing from Vera’s original research, this presentation will contextualize recent transformations in crisis response as part of the broader push for a more equitable public safety system and examine decision-making points in crisis situations that may produce inequities. The discussion will then turn to specific examples of how jurisdictions have taken action to promote equity in their emerging programs, with a focus on common challenges and opportunities that conference attendees may also be navigating in their communities.

Continuing education credits will be available nationally through the National Association of Social Workers, for attorneys through the Oregon State Bar, for members of law enforcement through the Oregon Department of Public Safety and Standards Training, and in Oregon for CADCs, QMHAs and QMHPs, CGACs, and other traditional healthcare workers through the Mental Health and Addiction Certification Board of Oregon.