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Boston's BJA Connect and Protect Grant

Award Information

Award #
Funding Category
Competitive Discretionary
Congressional District
Funding First Awarded
Total funding (to date)

Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2021, $527,586)

Lead applicant:                                  Boston Police Department, City of Boston

Mental Health partner:                      Boston Medical Center / Boston Emergency Services Team (BEST)

Other subcontractors:                        Dr. Melissa Morabito, UMass Lowell

                                                          Media campaign consultant (TBD)

                                                          Community-based organizations (TBD)

Funding amount requested:               $527,586.00

Previous BJA JMHCP Awards:        FY10 (2010-MO-BX-0011), FY13 (2013-MO-BX-0024), FY16 (2016-MO-BX-0009), FY19 


Like other major cities, Boston—home to roughly 693,000 people—contains a sizeable population of individuals with mental illness (MI) and co-occurring mental illness and substance abuse (CMISA). The Boston Police Department (BPD) is seeking FY2021 BJA Connect and Protect Grant funding to further strengthen its partnership with Boston Medical Center’s Boston Emergency Services Team (BEST) to enhance its behavioral health response. Recently, the BPD implemented changes to involuntary psychiatric evaluations, known locally as Section 12’s, that are received by the BPD from external agencies/courts, where the sole function of the police is to apprehend the individual—who has already demonstrated a risk of harm to self or others due to MI—and ensure they are transported to an emergency department for evaluation. Given the increased likelihood of escalated tensions during these encounters, the BPD’s new policy requires all externally received Section 12’s to go through the BPD’s Street Outreach Unit (SOU), a citywide unit whose officers have received extensive mental health training. The SOU tracks the Section 12’s and follow-up activities; verifies the subject’s address and personal information; and identifies any information that may be useful in determining the most appropriate way to execute the Section 12 with District officers. This new policy has great potential for minimizing harm to both residents of Boston as well as to police officers. However, it is extremely labor-intensive for the SOU, which consists of only eight officers meaning that this administrative work prevents SOU officers from engaging with the community. Furthermore, a clinician could play an enhanced role that sworn officers cannot. For example, a clinician could access relevant protected information, ensure that reviews are conducted in a standardized way and follow up with residents affected by Section 12s. Additionally, there exists the challenge of educating the community about these changes. The current proposal seeks to address these issues by: 1) hiring a full-time Master’s-level BEST clinician to serve as the Section 12 Coordinator within the SOU; 2) embarking on a culturally-sensitive educational campaign to inform Boston residents about enhancements to the BPD’s mental health response, including the Section 12 program; and 3) working with an academic partner to evaluate the program’s effectiveness. In this way, we will address the program-specific priority area of promoting effective strategies by law enforcement to identify and reduce the risk of harm to individuals with MI or CMISA.

Date Created: December 16, 2021