Disparate Treatment In Mental Health Crisis Situations Require Police Reforms

Activists are questioning the disparate treatment of blacks, especially those with mental health disorders. Racial justice demands include removal of police in mental health crisis situations.  Currently, its up to the police discretion whether a person is detained or met with overwhelming, disproportionate, or deadly force.  Whether that person  is in a state of delusions, hallucinations, paranoia and/or anxiety seems irrevelant.

Police in Oakland respond to from “40  to 50 calls daily; and almost 50 percent of the calls end up in an involuntary hold,” according to The Marshall Project..  In Philladelpia, Police Stop Data showed that a great percentage of pedestrian stops were black men with mental disorders; and 50 percent of these stops resulted in detention, according to Philladelphia Magazine. Black men are more likely than any other group to end up “involuntarily institutionalized” in the wake of a mental health crisis call, according to The Marshall Project

Police are not adequately trained professionals and shouldn’t be making determinations about which mentally ill persons should be detained, treated, or killed. Police in Philladelphia recently shot and killed Walter Wallace Jr., a black man with bipolar disorder who held a knife.  In Rochester, NY police killed Daniel Prude by asphyxiation while he hallucinated.  “Of the more than 350 people who had been held in John George’s emergency unit at least 10 times, over half were Black. Some had been hospitalized over 85 times.” reports The Marshall Project. 

Removing police from mental health crisis situations can prevent poor outcomes. The COVID 19 pandemic has exacerbated the mental health disparity and disorders like anxiety and depression are on the rise.  A continuum of care approach, with trained mental health coaches, preventive services, and follow up treatment programs can reduce mental health disparate treatment that hurts black and brown people .


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