New Vera Report Highlights the Need to Shift from Police to Community Responses

NEW YORK, NY – In a report released today, the Vera Institute of Justice addresses the need to reduce the role of police as first responders to people who are experiencing a behavioral health crisis and includes guidance for jurisdictions seeking alternatives that prioritize access to treatment and other essential support services. Behavioral Health Crisis Alternatives: Shifting from Police to Community Responses provides an overview of crisis response programs and examines the efforts of three communities – Eugene, Oregon; Olympia, Washington; and Phoenix, Arizona – to reduce the role of police in responding to people in crisis.

Police are generally ill-equipped to safely and effectively serve people experiencing behavioral health crises, and with more than 240 million 911 calls made each year, police have become default first responders for a wide range of social issues, from mental illness to substance use to homelessness.

“This report shows that communities interested in shrinking policing’s footprint don’t need to start from scratch. An increasing number of jurisdictions are demonstrating how to connect people with behavioral health conditions to health professionals rather than police,” said Jackson Beck, Program Associate in Vera’s Policing Program. “We’re seeing that this shift doesn’t happen overnight, but there are successful models for minimizing police contact for people in crisis.”

In addition to the three case studies, the report provides key considerations to guide practitioners and advocates in their efforts to shift responses from police to alternative responders in their communities.

About the Vera Institute of Justice:

The Vera Institute of Justice is a justice reform change agent. Vera produces ideas, analysis, and research that inspire change in the systems people rely upon for safety and justice. Vera collaborates with the communities most impacted by these systems and works in close partnership with government and civic leaders to implement change. Across projects, Vera is committed to explicitly and effectively reducing the burdens of the justice system on people of color and frames all work with an understanding of our country’s history of racial oppression. Vera is currently pursuing core priorities of ending the misuse of jails, transforming conditions of confinement, providing legal services for immigrants, and ensuring that justice systems more effectively serve America’s increasingly diverse communities. Vera has offices in Brooklyn, NY; Washington, DC; New Orleans, and Los Angeles.

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