Mentally Ill in Phoenix Say Police Make Encounters Worse

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Nearly half of mentally ill people who said they had contact with Phoenix police said the officers actually made the situation worse, found a city survey reported by the Arizona Republic. The survey by the Phoenix Mayor’s Commission on Disability Issues questioned 244 individuals with mental-health issues found in Phoenix mental health clinics, residential programs and those who were homeless. Of those, 51 percent had at least one encounter with police and 24 percent had three or more.

The survey found 45 percent of those who reported police contact said the situation deteriorated when police arrived. Another 30 percent said police helped, 19 percent said they helped a lot, and 6 percent said police had no effect. The results came nearly two years after Phoenix Police started a crisis-intervention team dedicated strictly to mental-health calls. The department added a second team in September. The first squad was created after the 2014 death of Michelle Cusseaux, a 50-year-old woman who was shot by Phoenix police responding to a mental-health call. Phoenix officers who were surveyed said they often face a series of unknowns when they arrive for a call. “They know nothing about the individual or his/her history, whether the person is intoxicated and/or has a mental health issue, or if the person has a history of violence,” the report says. “Officers at times feel very overwhelmed.”

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