The Council of State Governments
For decades, Americans have called 911 when they are experiencing an emergency or are in need of assistance. While this can be an effective and convenient way to deploy first responders—whether from police, fire, or emergency medical services (EMS)—many community advocates have argued that it too often results in police officers being dispatched to resolve situations better handled by health and social service professionals. Years of nationwide disinvestment in community health care and social services contribute to this problem. Many communities, particularly ones with large Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) populations, lack properly funded organizations and crisis systems that can provide the care and services needed to reduce jurisdictions’ overreliance on police to handle behavioral health (i.e., mental health, substance use, and overdose response) crises and social disturbances.