Police have shot people experiencing a mental health crisis. Who should you call instead? | NAMI: National Alliance on Mental Illness

Police have shot people experiencing a mental health crisis. Who should you call instead?

Posted on September 18, 2020

Amid a nationwide movement for racial justice and police reform sparked by the recent killings of several Black men and women, many people have spoken out against police shootings of people experiencing mental health crises. "A person shouldn't lose their life because they’re experiencing symptoms of a mental health condition," said Angela Kimball, national director of advocacy and public policy at NAMI. "People deserve help, not handcuffs." Nearly 15% of men and 30% of women booked into jails have a serious mental health condition, the National Alliance on Mental Illness estimates. The CAHOOTS program in Eugene, OR now responds to a range of mental health related crises and relies on techniques that are focused on harm reduction. "The idea there is to assume that the vast majority of crisis calls really aren't going to need law enforcement involvement, and more and more locations are starting to explore that model," Kimball said. "We're thinking that that is really the future of crisis response, focused on behavioral health with law enforcement support only when needed." Big change is also on the horizon for July 2022, Kimball said. That's when the 988 national mental health hotline goes live. "The intent is that 988 would eventually be able to dispatch and connect with a range of crisis response services – mobile crisis teams, crisis stabilization programs," Kimball said. "However, that infrastructure is highly localized, so whatever might be available in one state may be very different."


NAMI HelpLine is available M-F, 10 a.m. – 10 p.m. ET. Call 800-950-6264,
text “helpline” to 62640, or chat online. In a crisis, call or text 988 (24/7).