National Coalition of Mental Health Activists Calls for Ending Police Role in Mental Health Crises

[Editor’s Note: In the few weeks I’ve been on vacation, there have been many important developments in advocacy and policy that may have a significant impact on peer support services. I will post a few of these here in our blog site. Let me know of any other articles or posts  that will impact the peer support workforce.]

WASHINGTON (June 20, 2020)—In light of the repeated senseless killings by police officers of African Americans—many of whom are in a mental health crisis—the National Coalition for Mental Health Recovery (NCMHR) strongly supports the call by racial justice groups to “unbundle the police” and transfer a significant portion of police funding to health and human services—especially voluntary, community-based services.

“A report by the Ruderman Family Foundation indicates that up to 50 percent of individuals killed by police in the U.S. had disabilities, and a large percentage of those were people with mental health conditions,” said NCMHR founder Daniel B. Fisher, MD, PhD, who himself has lived experience of a mental health condition. “And African Americans are at higher risk than other individuals.”

In addition to their demand to increase funding for housing, job training, and health care, advocates representing a variety of human rights organizations have called for increased funding of mental health and substance use disorder services. “This would protect community members from the intrusion of police into situations involving mental health issues, for which they are insufficiently trained,” Dr. Fisher continued.

“However, there is the risk of replacing police force with mental health coercion,” Dr. Fisher noted. Rather than expanding forced mental health treatment and the number of beds in psychiatric institutions, NCMHR calls for using the increased mental health funding to expand voluntary, trauma-informed, community-based care. These services—such as peer-run crisis respites, warmlines, crisis stabilization units, and crisis outreach services—need to be delivered by ‘peers’—people with lived experience of a mental health condition—as alternatives to institutions.

“These services, which are evidence-based, could greatly reduce the killing by police of people with mental health conditions—especially African Americans, indigenous persons, and other people of color, who are most at risk,” Dr. Fisher said.

The NCMHR consists of member organizations in 27 states and the District of Columbia, and proudly joined 14 other disability rights groups run by persons with disabilities as a founding member of the National Disability Leadership Alliance.

Contact: Daniel Fisher, MD, PhD, info@ncmhr.org, 202-642-4480

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