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.
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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.