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    Promote health-focused responses to behavioral health emergencies

    People in crisis related to a mental illness and/or substance use disorder are more likely to encounter police than get medical attention. This results in millions of people with mental health and substance use disorders being jailed every year.[1][2]

    Substance use disorders and mental illness are health care issues, not crimes. An appropriate crisis response should connect people to care, not jail. The Mental Health Justice Act would make it easier for state, local, and tribal governments to send trained mental health professionals instead of police to mental health emergencies reported to 911, 988, or other emergency hotlines. It would create a grant program to pay for hiring, employing, training, and dispatching mental health provider first responder units. It would also provide access to technical assistance for grantees, require a study on the effectiveness of the grant program, and establish best practices for mental health professionals responding to mental health emergencies.

    Send the letter below to ask your members of Congress to cosponsor the Mental Health Justice Act (H.R. 6451/S. 3388) to ensure people receive the care they need.

    The vast majority of those arrested while experiencing issues related to mental illness or substance use disorder are arrested for minor offenses, not violent crimes. This has led to jails and prisons overcrowded by people who would be better served by health and social services. Further, since 2015, people with mental illness have accounted for 20 percent of fatal police shootings, with incidents often involving drugs or alcohol.[3][4] Police response to mental health crises can be especially damaging in Black communities and other communities of color.[5]

    Police have become the default first responders for issues for which they are not adequately trained or prepared. Once in jail, most individuals do not receive the treatment they need, and upon release, many cannot access affordable, quality care or other benefits and services.

    The Mental Health Justice Act is a needed step toward improving crisis response for people with mental health and addiction.