Some police and emergency responders say the problem of dealing with people who have mental illness is getting worse, reports the Associated Press. A poor economy and cuts to institutional programs threaten to overwhelm personnel who are trained more to deal with crime and vehicle accidents than mental crises.
As many as 1,300 departments have set up crisis intervention teams modeled after a Memphis program created in 1988 after police shot a man with mental illness. The teams get mental health training and work with the community on responses. By the end of 2011, state mental health budgets may be cut by 21.8 percent, on top of what has already been trimmed, says the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors.