Opinion: Behavioral health responders support police, community

Sherry McRill

We have a longstanding commitment to community health, but the need for social and behavioral support for our police officers and those they encounter has never been greater.

Growing tensions and rampant misunderstandings are all fuel for incidents between the police and the community that could otherwise be avoided or deescalated. Many calls to 911 are more about the need for support than emergency criminal intervention, and support is exactly what CAPPA — the Community and Police Partnership Advocacy Program — has delivered.

CAPPA provides police liaison services, outreach, police education and consultation to law enforcement in situations involving persons struggling with behavioral health and homelessness in the community. It also provides crisis assistance to those who would otherwise be arrested when there appears to be a need for behavioral health services as an alternative.

Public safety is comprehensive and requires more than law enforcement, McRill writes.

But as times change and needs grow, the opportunity and time to strengthen this program is now.

CAPPA is modeled upon co-responder practices used in law enforcement jurisdictions nationwide — partnering behavioral health and community providers to better assist those suffering with behavioral health challenges.

The diversion of a consumer from jail saves taxpayers money. It cost approximately $104 a day and over $38,000 a year to house an inmate in 2014. It also prevents individuals who are suffering with mental illness or substance use from being placed where they can receive the appropriate services as it relates to their diagnosis.

In partnership with the Detroit Police Department, and with funding from the Detroit Wayne Integrated Health Network, state grants and the Flinn Foundation, CAPPA is poised for growth to expand beyond its limited coverage area due to the escalating need in the community.

Jurisdictions with co-responder services which CAPPA provides, have documented impressive, evidence-based outcomes because of their partnership program — significantly fewer assaults and injuries of officers, fewer fatal shootings of people, favorable public image, fewer lawsuits, less negative press and greatly improved relationships between behavioral health and community providers.

This translates to a safer environment for residents and police officers and ensures that those whose needs fall outside of police intervention are met. It also ensures the disconnect between those in the community and those who are delivering public services is bridged.

Public safety is comprehensive and requires more than law enforcement. Northeast Integrated Health will continue to work with our existing partners, while identifying new ones, to ensure that CAPPA is fully prepared to help keep our residents, officers, city and community calm and safe.

Sherry McRill is the president and CEO of Northeast Integrated Health.