"Law enforcement agencies being overwhelmed by service calls involving individuals with untreated severe mental illness."
Arlington, VA (PRWEB) December 20, 2011
Senior law enforcement officials say incidents involving serious mental illness are increasingly diverting officers from the streets and exposing them to risk of injury or death because of illnesses that can be treated, according to a study released Monday by the Treatment Advocacy Center.
A nationwide online survey of more than 2,400 senior law enforcement officials conducted in conjunction with a project for the Naval Postgraduate School's Center for Homeland Defense and Security found:
- Widespread unfamiliarity or confusion about using state emergency hospitalization laws to get help for individuals experiencing acute psychiatric crisis.
- Widespread belief that mental illness is a significant factor in the injury and death of on-duty law enforcement officers.
- Widespread reports that incidents involving people with mental illness are a “major consumer of law enforcement resources.”
- Widespread perception that service calls involving individuals with mental illness take more time than routine larceny, domestic disputes or traffic accidents.
“The Impact of Mental Illness on Law Enforcement Resources” was conducted by Chief of Police Michael Biasotti as part of a thesis project for the Naval Postgraduate School. The survey was designed “to gauge and identify areas of law enforcement resource consumption directly related to involvement with severely mentally ill persons.” Most of the respondents reported having more than 20 years of experience in their field.
“There is no shortage of anecdotal reporting these days about law enforcement agencies being overwhelmed by service calls involving individuals with untreated severe mental illness, but official tracking of those impacts is scarce or non-existent,” said James Pavle, executive director of the Treatment Advocacy Center, which excerpted and published the survey results.
“What Chief Biasotti has done is to provide quantifiable data on issues that affect police and sheriff’s departments and everyone they serve. These issues stem from conditions that could be treated. The Department of Justice should be collecting data mental illness in its routine reporting so these issues can be better identified and addressed.”
Biasotti is chief of police for the Town of New Windsor, New York. The Treatment Advocacy Center is the only national nonprofit focused exclusively on eliminating legal and other barriers to treatment for people with severe mental illnesses such as schizophrenia and severe bipolar disorder.