Law enforcement and government officials across the U.S. are seeking better ways to manage people suffering from severe mental episodes so that their encounters with law enforcement result in getting them help, instead of jail or a worse outcome, says the Kansas City Star. Over the last 20 years, encounters with mental illness have become more prominent in police enforcement because of dramatically reduced services and gutted funding, said New York University Prof. Gerald Landsberg, an expert in forensic mental health.
Just in the last four years, state budgets for mental health care have been slashed $4.5 billion nationally. “Police have become the mental health crisis providers throughout the United States, and most are not trained,” Landsberg said. “Because they are not trained, they, too, often overreact. The results sometimes are horrendous.” A study published last year found that at least half of the estimated 375 to 500 people shot and killed by police each year in the U.S. have mental health problems.