FEBRUARY 3, 2022
California Health Care Foundation
In many communities, behavioral health crisis response consists of a fragmentary array of services rather than a cohesive system. People experiencing acute crisis may touch several separate and often inappropriate systems — 911, first responders, hospital emergency departments, and even jails — without ever receiving adequate behavioral health treatment. Without a comprehensive crisis system, law enforcement personnel and first responders become the default primary responders even though they are frequently ill-equipped to stabilize the situation. Police interaction with people experiencing a behavioral health crisis — one related to mental illness or substance use disorder — increases the likelihood of traumatic and adverse outcomes, such as the person being arrested, handcuffed, imprisoned, involuntarily hospitalized, injured, or even killed.