During Police Week, Harder Introduces Bill to Help Law Enforcement Interact with People with Mental Health Issues

May 16, 2019
Press Release
Central Valley Sheriffs and Police Chiefs Provided Inspiration for Bill

People Are More Likely to Encounter Police Than Get Medical Help During Mental Health Crises

WASHINGTON – After hearing from local law enforcement leaders that interacting with people who have mental health issues was a top concern, Representative Josh Harder (CA-10) introduced the Supporting the Health and Safety of Law Enforcement Act. The bill would create a new grant program to support coordination between community mental health centers and law enforcement officers on mental health issues. The bill was introduced after Rep. Harder received input from local sheriffs and police chiefs regarding the most pressing concerns facing law enforcement in the Central Valley.

“Local sheriffs and police chiefs tell me that one of the biggest challenges they face is interacting with people with mental health issues,” said Rep. Harder. “We need to make sure our police have all the tools and training they need to safely interact with all members of our community, including people with mental health issues.”

“This program is a huge start towards addressing the needs that law enforcement faces in trying to help our transient mental health population,” said Turlock Police Chief Nino Amirfar. “Our current program, including a team of one specially trained officer accompanied by a mental health clinician, a social services member and community paramedic, has been successful in its intermittent use. We need a sustainable team that is consistently engaged in full time mitigation efforts and this bill is a huge start.”

“To better serve in a degree that supports all communities, we must provide support and awareness for mental health,” said Patterson Police Chief Marcelino Nuno.

The Supporting the Health and Safety of Law Enforcement Act would establish a three-year pilot program through the Department of Justice (DOJ) which would provide grant funding up to $300,000 over three years to facilitate closer coordination between community mental health centers and law enforcement. Following the pilot program, the DOJ would be required to issue a report to Congress regarding the program’s effectiveness.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Health, two million people with mental health issues are booked into jail every year and nearly 15% of men and 30% of women booked into jails have a serious mental health condition.