Policing Mental Health Units

Policing Mental Health Units

The need for crisis intervention teams.

With recent discussions of defunding police, advantages and disadvantages form on both sides of the debate but perhaps a middle ground can be achieved in the implementation of crisis intervention teams (Amy C. Watson, 2012). In the United States, people with mental health issues cross paths with law enforcement frequently. The problem today is critical as police involvement with individuals with mental health problems continue to grow due to homelessness and other reasons.

A collaborative approach for serving the populations with mental health illness can be realized in a Crisis Intervention Team (CIT). CIT is a training tool implemented for officers to learn the proper methods to de-escalate situations without force, restrain individuals and make initial safety assessments for the person and bystanders as well as providing contact information for appropriate mental health resources. Numerous cities have CIT units already and provide evidence for their success (Dunning, 2010–2017). Perhaps larger staffs of nurses and doctors could be implemented in units which can provide the necessary evaluations and other expertise needed for proper interventions. Law enforcement officers will need expanded training for handling mental health crisis situations which provides a more effective option than simply defunding police and expanding social services since social services are not first-responders in most instances.

Models such as CIT date back to the late eighties and the need for them has only grown. Having a more unified system for dealing with mental health issues and law enforcement benefits both the communities and individuals involved in the process. CITs reduce risk and cost by establishing standards for how law enforcement works with mentally ill patients. The CIT ultimately provides a way to reduce incarceration and cost of the mentally ill by dealing with the problem in a focused solution that is multidisciplinary.


Amy C. Watson, PhD and Anjali J. Fulambarker, MSW (2012, December 8). The Crisis Intervention Team Model of Police Response to Mental Health Crisis: A Primer for Mental Health Practitioners. Retrieved from NCBI:

Dunning, C. (2010–2017). Crisis Intervention Teams in Law Enforcement. Retrieved from Criminal Justice Programs:

Photo by National Cancer Institute on Unsplash


Triola Vincent. Mon, Feb 15, 2021. Policing Mental Health Units Retrieved from

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