In their role as first responders, police officers interact frequently with people with mental illnesses and/or developmental disabilities. These encounters can often be complex and unpredictable, and can lead to stressful and dangerous conditions for officers and community members. Immediate consequences for public safety and individual health can result from these interactions, as can longer term consequences, such as the overrepresentation of people with mental illnesses and developmental disabilities in jails and prisons. 

Vera’s partnership on this project with BJA is joined by a multidisciplinary team of leaders in the fields of policing, mental illness, intellectual/developmental disability, crisis intervention, peer advocacy, prosecution, emergency medicine, and technology development, who together serve as a network of training and technical assistance providers.

To bolster existing resources and extend the capacity of the field to respond strategically to people with mental illnesses and developmental disabilities, Serving Safely will build upon BJA’s significant investments by providing training and technical assistance directly to law enforcement and partnering agencies; centralizing, developing, and disseminating resources to make it easier for people in the field to access relevant content; and developing a research agenda that identifies knowledge gaps or prioritizes scalable research/evaluation options.

Through these efforts, Serving Safely works to minimize unnecessary detention and incarceration of persons with mental illnesses and developmental disabilities, strengthen connections to community-based treatment and services, and grow partnerships between law enforcement and the communities they serve.


This project was supported by Grant No. 2017-NT-BX-K001 awarded by the Bureau of Justice Assistance. The Bureau of Justice Assistance is a component of the Department of Justice’s Office of Justice Programs, which also includes the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the National Institute of Justice, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, the Office for Victims of Crime, and the SMART Office. Points of view or opinions in this document are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.