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Managing

Police-Mental Health Collaboration (PMHC) Toolkit

Managing Police-Mental Health Collaborations

A comprehensive PMHC program affects several different law enforcement functions. Many agencies designate an individual to be the program manager or coordinator. The program manager’s role requires a person with targeted experience and knowledge to coordinate the diverse components of the PMHC program. For smaller agencies, the program manager’s role can be collateral duty. In other agencies, it may be a part-time or a full-time position. Some of the nation’s mid-sized and larger agencies have established organizational units or divisions to demonstrate that the PMHC program is an agency priority. This also allows the agency to enhance program coordination and oversight.

This section provides an overview of the agency functions that play a key role in ensuring the success of the PMHC program, including:

  • Policies and Procedures
  • Call-taking and dispatching procedures
  • Protocols to divert individuals from the criminal justice system
  • Partnership agreements with mental health providers
  • Information-sharing protocols

Sharing Program Management with Community Partners

PMHCs benefit when law enforcement collaborates with, and are inclusive of, mental health service delivery partners and mental health advocates—including people living with mental illnesses and their families. Including community organizations and advocates as partners raises awareness of program successes and enhances community trust in the program.  These partners can also help sustain the program over the long term by seeking funding opportunities, cultivating champions or educating elected officials.  Ensure these stakeholders are engaged as equal partners in your taskforce or steering committee.

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Policies and Procedures

Written policies and procedures play an important role in the overall management and success of a PMHC program. They provide law enforcement agency employees with a clear understanding of the PMHC program by:

  • Affirming agency principles.
  • Delineating procedures for carrying out program activities.
  • Providing critical information for working with mental health partners.

Some agencies use one written directive for the entire program, while others reference the PMHC program in several, relevant directives.

Examples of Policies

Call Taking and Dispatching

Call takers and dispatchers are key partners in the successful management and coordination of a PMHC program. 911 emergency dispatch centers are often the first point of contact for mental health calls for service. Determining that mental illness is a factor in a call for service is an essential first step to providing appropriate police response. To facilitate coordination between the PMHC program and dispatch center, many agencies have developed protocols and specific questions to aid call takers and dispatchers gather critical information, which is then conveyed to the officers. This is essential for officer safety and will allow for consideration of the most appropriate response.

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Community-based Resources

Community-based mental health resources and services play key roles in the operations and success of PMHC programs by offering immediate alternatives to incarceration for people with mental illness. To that end, many communities are establishing crisis care centers, which reduce overreliance on both jail and hospital emergency rooms and allow officers to return to service in a timely manner.

Carefully cultivating and managing relationships with mental health care providers ensure that officers are aware of these resources and use them in accordance with rules and admission criteria.

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Partnership Agreements

The success of these programs often rests on the ability of law enforcement and mental health agencies to effectively work together. Interagency agreements, such as memorandums of understanding (MOUs) are effective mechanisms to:

  • Delineate role and responsibilities
  • Identify resources to be contributed
  • Document joint policies and procedures

One of the challenges to collaboration is sharing an individual’s information between law enforcement and mental health providers. However, this can be addressed through an agreement such as a memorandum of understanding or an information-sharing agreement, or another type of interagency agreement. What is of critical importance, is that collaborating partners have a clear understanding of what information can and cannot be shared. The agreed-upon protocols should then be documented within the partnership agreement.

Information Sharing

Examples of MOUs

FAQs

Managing

Focused Tools for Law Enforcement

Many communities struggle with the PMHC program design process. Communities are unsure how to design and develop a PMHC program that meets their distinct needs and challenges. One way to increase knowledge of PMHCs, is to review programs that other jurisdictions have developed and tailor those programs to your specific community needs.

Law Enforcement agencies interested in expanding their knowledge base, starting, or enhancing a PMHC, can contact The U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) or BJA’s Training and Technical Assistance (TTA) Provider. BJA supports these urban and rural police departments to act as host-sites to visiting law enforcement agencies and their mental health partners.

Located across the country, these learning sites represent a diverse cross-section of perspectives and program examples and are dedicated to helping other jurisdictions improve their responses to people with mental illnesses.

Opportunities

The ten learning sites host site visits from interested colleagues and other local and state government officials, answer questions from the field, and work with BJA’s TTA provider to develop materials for practitioners and their community partners.

TTA is provided to law enforcement agencies and their community partners in an effort to assist with the development or implementation of PMHC strategies. Supplemental funds can be made available to agencies that are interested in visiting the learning sites. This is a focused approach intended to provide your agency with access to outstanding peer resources for police-mental health collaboration programs.

To request TTA and receive confirmation within 36 hours of your request

For frequently asked questions about the Law Enforcement Mental Health Learning Sites, access the TA FAQs.

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Law Enforcement Learning Sites

Support jurisdictions in exploring strategies to improve the outcomes of encounters between law enforcement and people who have mental illnesses.

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Contact PMHC

Please submit questions, policies and training materials that can benefit others for review and consideration.

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