Dozens of law enforcement officers from 8 different law enforcement agencies gathered in Tucson in December to participate in a week-long crisis intervention training course.
Trainings like these are an invaluable component of modern day law enforcement; they operate on the evidence-based premise that our community increasingly requires police to interact with people who are experiencing mental and behavioral health crises. In 2013, the Pima County Sheriff’s Department and the Tucson Police Department founded a joint unit, the Mental Health Support Team (MHST), to help ensure that individuals with mental health illnesses receive treatment and support, instead of a term of incarceration that can often exacerbate mental health issues.
The MHST Team and multi-agency crisis intervention training are exactly the kinds of law enforcement efforts our community should support and seek to expand, given the intractable link between incarceration rates and and mental illness. Approximately 60% of the men and women at the Pima County jail have a need for mental health treatment, which makes our jail the largest provider of mental health care in Pima County. According to the Arizona Department of Correction, as of November 2016, 11,595 of DOC’s 42,567 total inmates required ongoing mental health service – over 27% of Arizona’s entire prison population.
– Joel Feinman