In a previous blog post, I wrote about crisis intervention teams and their effectiveness in improving outcomes for people experiencing a crisis due to a mental or substance use disorder. Crisis intervention teams work with law enforcement officials to recognize a person who is in crisis and safely direct them to treatment appropriate for their condition.
Main page content
Every day, first responders including police officers, firefighters and emergency medical services ‘personnel face situations requiring rapid but thoughtful decision-making. De-escalating a crisis, particularly ones involving persons who may be experiencing a mental illness or substance use disorder requires an approach informed by behavioral health knowledge. SAMHSA developed resources for first responders to provide the knowledge necessary to support individuals in crisis while maintaining safety.
First responders can be the first step on the road to recovery. Whether a person in crisis is experiencing an acute primary psychosis manic episode, severe depression or a drug overdose the goal is to provide trauma-informed support to people in need.
While speaking in Milwaukee last year, I met a woman named Maria. Her 31-year-old son, Dontre, had recently been killed in an interaction with law enforcement in a city park—a place he went to get away from the frightening voices he heard in his head. On the day he died, the police had been called to check on Dontre’s well-being after he was seen sleeping in the park. What could have been an opportunity for crisis intervention resulted in a loss of life.
Dontre’s death is a tragedy. What makes it even more tragic is the fact that, far too often, these types of interactions end similarly. On many occasions, responders who encounter a person experiencing a mental health crisis aren’t equipped with the training and skills to respond to appropriately.