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Responding to Individuals with Mental Illness

NCJ Number
FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin Volume: 68 Issue: 11 Dated: November 1999 Pages: 6-8
Jeff Wellborn
Date Published
3 pages
This article discusses cooperation between law enforcement and mental health personnel in responding to individuals with mental illness.
In 1983, the city of New Orleans, Louisiana, its police department, and the State's mental health services established a mobile crisis service. Specially trained volunteers provide intervention and mental health evaluations at the scene of psychiatric emergencies to which the police department has responded. The volunteers are not sworn law enforcement officers. They have a limited commission that empowers them to place individuals into mental health facilities when such action appears appropriate. The article describes the volunteers' training and funding the service. The crisis service has allowed police officers to concentrate on law enforcement duties, relieved the prison system by diverting individuals to mental health facilities and saved the city of New Orleans approximately $300,000 per year. Further, this intervention has reduced the number of lawsuits filed against police by mentally ill individuals or their advocates. Individuals with mental illness also benefit from the system, realizing that the volunteers will help them receive needed care as opposed to facing criminal proceedings.