Today, in too many communities, law enforcement officers serve as first responders to most people experiencing mental health crises. However, law enforcement is not well equipped for this and shouldn't ever be the first responder to a mental health crisis.
Walter Wallace, Daniel Prude, Patrick Warren Sr. and far too many others have lost their lives because of our nation's current approach to mental health emergencies. A person should not lose their life or end up in jail because they are experiencing a mental health emergency.
When a mental health crisis occurs, it deserves a mental health response, not a criminal justice response. People deserve help, not handcuffs. Yet people with mental illness are overrepresented in our nation's jails and prisons — about 2 in 5 people who are incarcerated have a history of mental illness. NAMI believes that a person in a mental health crisis should be met with well-trained mobile crisis teams to de-escalate the situation and provide the support and linkages to treatment that people need. We need to reduce criminal justice system involvement and increase investments in mental health care.