Health Affairs | September 8, 2021Read the Publication
Local governments across the United States are responding to calls to divest police of responsibilities for responding to non-criminal emergencies by creating non-police behavioral health crisis response teams. Although the need for such programs is broadly acknowledged, there is no clear consensus about who, if not police, should respond instead. Miami-Dade County, Florida, is dispatching psychologists. Olympia, Washington, is dispatching trained crisis responders. Oakland, California, is trying teams of peer-support specialists. Alexandria, Kentucky, is sending social workers, while in Denver, Colorado, paramedics and social workers are responding in tandem. Because no professional or specialized group is an ideal fit for this need, municipalities struggle to decide how best to staff behavioral health crisis response programs out of the existing workforce. Instead, we believe, novel behavioral health crisis response programs require a new behavioral health crisis response professional.