Alliance Note: More cities have been recognizing the need to provide alternative responses to mental health and substance use crisis calls. To support these efforts throughout the nation, the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law and The Vera Institute of Justice released a brief on new federal guidance for alternative community responses. The Bazelon center has also released a report on outlining the effectiveness of having peers involved in crisis response and other related services for people with mental health needs.
In New York, we have been pushing for the passage of non-police Mental Health First Responder programs for the entire state through the Daniel’s Law legislation. Yesterday, the Daniel’s Law Coalition held its first Albany advocacy day to garner more support to get the law enacted this year! There are many ways for you to get involved, including participating in today’s Daniel’s Law Task Force stakeholder listening session at John Jay College in New York City from 4-6pm. We must make the Task Force and the Legislature know how desperately needed these teams are so no more New Yorkers suffer harm when they are most in need of support.
See below for details on the Task Force Stakeholder Listening Session and information about the two materials released by the Bazelon Center.
The Daniel’s Law Task Force will host this week the next in a series of stakeholder listening sessions aimed at gathering feedback from the public. Registration is now open for the second in-person listening session at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 18, which will also be streamed live.
The listening session will be hosted at the second-floor student dining hall at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice campus at 524 West 59th St., in New York City. Members of the public can register to provide feedback in-person directly to the task force during the listening session.
Established in response to the death of 41-year-old Daniel Prude in 2020, the task force is charged with developing recommendations to guide behavioral health crisis response and explore avenues for related diversion services. Following its inaugural meeting in August, the task force hosted its first stakeholder listening session virtually in late November, which resulted in more than 50 comments from the roughly 100 participants.
Earlier this month, the task force conducted its first in-person listening session at Stony Brook. The hour-long session drew comments from members of the public and was also streamed online and can be viewed on the Daniel’s Law website.
These sessions are aimed at gathering additional input from communities, governmental entities, and the public on the best practices for engaging individuals in crisis, with a specific emphasis on equity. The task force is also examining a variety of models –both national and international –that could be used in developing a crisis response system.
The task force is also conducting a virtual member meeting from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. on Jan. 26, which will also be streamed live.
January 16, 2024 – Bazelon Center and Vera Institute: A Different Response to 911 Calls is Urgently Needed
Read the new issue brief by the Bazelon Center and the Vera Institute of Justice, “New Federal Guidance for Alternatives to Police for People with Behavioral Health or Other Disabilities.” The issue brief analyzes recent guidance issued by the U.S. Departments of Justice and Health and Human Services, which makes clear that people with mental health and other disabilities should receive a health response—not a law enforcement response—in circumstances where others would receive a health response. “A health-focused team of workers with mental health expertise should be deployed instead of the police, just as an ambulance would be dispatched to help someone experiencing a physical health emergency.”
The new federal government guidance is an important step forward, but the Bazelon Center and the Vera Institute urge all levels of government to undertake greater investment in and clarity around the prioritization and implementation of unarmed crisis responses for people with disabilities over police-led approaches. Read the full issue brief (PDF).
January 9, 2024 – Bazelon Center Issues Report on the Benefits of Peer Supports in Crisis Services
How communities respond to a mental health crisis is one of the key issues facing people with mental health disabilities today. Too often, police respond to calls to 911 in ways that cause physical and emotional harm to people in crisis, especially those from Black and brown communities. Today the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law released its new report, “When There’s a Crisis, Call a Peer: How People with Lived Experience Make Mental Health Crisis Services More Effective.” The report explains that when people with lived experience with mental health challenges working as “peer specialists” respond to these calls, individuals who need help are less likely to be admitted to emergency rooms and hospitals, more likely to be engaged in community-based services, experience less self-stigma and more self-empowerment, and are less likely to need crisis services in the future. Read the full report (PDF).