Responding to Individuals in Behavioral Health Crisis via Co-Responder Models

Cities and counties across the country are increasingly adopting promising co-responder models to improve how they engage with people experiencing behavioral health crises. Co-responder models vary in practice, but generally involve law enforcement and clinicians working together in response to calls for service involving a person experiencing a behavioral health crisis. The model provides law enforcement with appropriate alternatives to arrest as well as additional options to respond to non-criminal calls. Communities and local leaders can use the model to develop a continuum of crisis care that results in the reduction of harm, arrests, and use of jails and emergency departments and that simultaneously promotes the development of and access to quality mental and substance use disorder treatment and services.

This brief, Responding to Individuals in Behavioral Health Crisis via Co-Responder Models: The Roles of Cities, Counties, Law Enforcement, and Providers, is the first joint product in a series from Policy Research, Inc. (PRI) and the National League of Cities (NLC). The publication details various co-responder models available to city and county leaders. It reflects the growing interest in and experimentation with co-response among jurisdictions that are part of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation’s Safety and Justice Challenge. In addition, the brief builds upon case studies in NLC’s recent series, Addressing Mental Health, Substance Use, and Homelessness, which explores emergency response and crisis stabilization strategies for cities.

This report was created with support from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation as part of the Safety and Justice Challenge initiative, which seeks to address overincarceration by changing the way America thinks about and uses jails.

The authors would also like to thank the International Association of Chiefs of Police and Nastassia Walsh and Vernon Smith of the National Association of Counties for their contributions to improve the quality of this brief.

This resource was first shared in 2020.

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