Crisis Response Services for People with Mental Illnesses or Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities A Review of the Literature on Police-based and Other First Response Models

Serving Safely Lit Review Square V4


The Vera Institute of Justice (Vera) launched Serving Safely in May 2018 as a national initiative to improve police responses to people with serious mental illnesses (SMI) and intellectual/developmental disabilities (I/DD). The initiative’s Research and Evaluation Committee developed this literature review as a first step toward creating a research agenda for the field that identifies knowledge gaps and prioritizes options for scalable research and evaluation. This summary of the published research to date provides an overview of nine types of police-based and related emergency response models that have received some research attention, as well as the methodological approaches used to evaluate them and their results.

Key Takeaway

Each of the approaches Vera reviewed has promise for meeting the goals of improved crisis response, but the extent and type of research about each approach varies and key gaps in knowledge remain.

Publication Highlights

  • Most of the extant research has focused on models and approaches developed for people with mental illnesses or having a psychiatric crisis. The need for further research on the same or different models and approaches for those who have I/DD is compelling.

  • The models and approaches described in this literature review have typically been designed and implemented for one population or the other (that is, those who have SMI or I/DD) and remarkably few studies have considered both groups.

  • The committee included only the models and approaches that can be implemented at the local level and that generate a response to a person in need in the community.