Rep. McNerney Calls for More Resources to Provide Law Enforcement with Mental Health Response Training
Washington – Representative Jerry McNerney (CA-09) is calling for increased resources for law enforcement to boost mental health response training programs through legislation he recently introduced in Congress. The Mental Health Training Enhancement for First Responders Act of 2016 (H.R. 5864) is an effort to give law enforcement and first responders the necessary tools to better understand the signs and symptoms of mental health and assess the impact on individuals, families, communities, and those with the potential to enter the criminal justice system.
“Law enforcement officers and first responders across the country are faced with difficult and often unpredictable situations on a daily basis that require careful response to ensure public safety. My Mental Health Training Enhancement for First Responders Act aims to provide officers and law enforcement personnel with appropriate intervention tools and techniques to address interactions involving individuals with mental illness who might be experiencing a crisis,” said Rep. Jerry McNerney. “Our police and first responders sacrifice much to keep us safe, and making investments in their training and skills development ensures they are best prepared to protect our communities.”
Rep. McNerney’s legislation calls for specialized training that would provide officers with the tools to recognize the signs and symptoms of mental illnesses; stabilization and de-escalation techniques; disposition options; community resources; and funding for states to create a database for all public safety and outreach.
The training should be facilitated by mental health personnel, experienced officers and other stakeholders and include role-playing scenarios and group problem-solving exercises; and address issues specific to local communities; in addition to providing cross training exercises with law enforcement and mental health professionals.
The bill would also make funding available for mental health training for call-takers and 911 dispatchers that includes the following recommendations:
- Asking if there is a history of mental health, drug abuse, violence or victimization
- Determining if the person poses a harm to him/herself and/or others;
- Ascertaining if there is a weapon involved
- Establishing interagency sharing of best practice standards
- Providing supplemental training with a concise list of questions to ask compiled by mental health professionals
Rep. McNerney’s legislation also looks to improve mental health response by leveraging community partnerships between schools and community and faith-based organizations. The bill amends the Ounce of Prevention Grant program focused on mentoring, tutoring, and job placement assistance, to include mental health professionals and allows for grants to be used to place law enforcement officials at participating schools. It also adds “mental health agencies” as a designee in the Community Schools Youth Services Program.
In developing this legislation, the Congressman met with a series of stakeholders from local law enforcement, mental health experts and advocates, juvenile protection and delinquency groups, gang violence prevention, education leaders, community services, and other non-profit organizations throughout California’s 9th Congressional District.
H.R. 5864 has the support of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). In a letter, Mary Giliberti, Chief Executive Officer for NAMI wrote the following:
“Due largely to a lack of adequate mental health resources, police and other law enforcement officers throughout the country have become first responders to people with mental illness experiencing crises. Unfortunately, these officers generally are not trained to effectively respond to these difficult situations. The consequences can be harmful and even deadly for these officers or the people they are responding to… Thus, the Mental Health Training for First Responders Act is both timely and crucial. We appreciate your [Congressman McNerney’s] leadership introducing this bill.”
H.R. 5864 has been referred to House Education and the Workforce Committee.
Rep. McNerney has been a strong advocate for making more resources available to local law enforcement communities, pushing Congress to include robust funding for the COPS (Community Oriented Policing) Technology Grants and Hiring programs.
Rep. Jerry McNerney proudly serves the constituents of California’s 9th Congressional District that includes portions of San Joaquin, Contra Costa, and Sacramento Counties. For more information on Rep. McNerney’s work, follow him on Facebook and on Twitter @RepMcNerney.