Police officers respond to seemingly countless calls daily, and some of these calls may involve individuals who are experiencing a mental health emergency.
In cases where subjects are dealing with mental health disorders or addictions, arrests from officers for illegal or risky behaviors may not be the best course of action. Massachusetts has adopted a co-responder model for some cities, helping people with mental health and substance abuse issues who need addiction treatment in Massachusetts rather than arrest. But, how effective is this approach to helping communities?
What Is the Co-Responder Model?When police officers respond to calls for individuals who are in distress or engaging in illegal activities, the situation is not always cut and dry. Someone who struggles with mental illness may be experiencing an episode, or an addicted individual may be overdosing. The co-responder model is designed for these types of situations, where citizens have exceptional needs that require help from a mental health counselor or social worker.
In the co-response program, a therapist, mental health counselor, social worker, or treatment professional works alongside law enforcement so that a police officer and social worker or therapist arrive together. Then, the behavioral health specialist intervenes in mental health calls to deescalate situations and get individuals in contact with support services or treatment programs.1
The co-responder model is a new evolution of previous models that trained police officers in crisis response.2 Now, instead of expecting the officers to respond in crisis situations, mental health professionals and social workers are on hand to respond quickly.
How Effective Are Mental Health Co-Responders?Rather than incarcerating individuals who are struggling with addictions or mental health disorders, the co-response model allows these people to get the help they need to change their lives. As mental health professionals, co-responders are able to level with individuals and make a true difference. These responders can also work with follow-ups, case management, and connect people with real resources to make a difference.
This is part of a broader change to decriminalize and destigmatize addiction, alcoholism, and mental health disorders. Rather than being arrested, these struggling people are given the help they need to actually change their lives for the better.
Another benefit of the co-responder model is the ease it brings to the police force. Once the situation is made safe, officers can continue to other calls while a mental health professional or social worker stays behind with the individual. The co-responder can assist with case management and follow-ups so the officers can continue with other aspects of their jobs. 3
At Banyan Treatment Centers Massachusetts, we know that co-responder programs are just the beginning in the greater goal to get people the help they need for sobriety. If you are struggling with addiction, if you have a loved one who is struggling, or if you are aiming to establish a corporate recovery program near Boston, we are here to help. Call 888-280-4763 to learn more about our services and support systems.
Call 888-280-4763 to learn more about our services and support systems.
- Colorado Department of Human Services - Co-Responder Programs
- Mother Jones - Massachusetts Is Trying a Radical But Shockingly Simple New Response to the Opioid Crisis
- Oxford Academy -A Co-Responder Model for Policing Mental Health Problems at Crime Hot Spots: Findings from a Pilot Project