New Initiative Helps Keep People with Mental Illness Out of Jail

May 9, 2018

NAMI is pleased to announce the launch of Serving Safely, a national initiative to help police and sheriffs’ departments effectively respond to mental health crises. Funded by the U.S. Department of Justice, “Serving Safely: The National Initiative to Enhance Policing for Persons with Mental Illnesses and Developmental Disabilities” will be a one-stop shop for communities—specifically law enforcement agencies—to request training and technical assistance. Through the initiative’s work, law enforcement agencies will be better prepared to interact with people experiencing mental illness or developmental disabilities and their families.

Each year, millions of people with mental illness are booked into jails across the U.S. Due to limited resources, a lack of quality community treatment options and no alternatives, law enforcement are increasingly called upon to respond during mental health crises. For the last 30 years, local and state NAMIs have been on the front lines promoting programs—such as crisis intervention teams (CIT) and mental health courts—that divert people with mental illness away from the criminal justice system and into treatment.

Teaming up on this project are the U.S. Department of Justice, The Vera Institute of Justice, The Arc, CIT International, National College of Emergency Physicians, Prosecutors Center for Excellence, National Disability Rights Network and several national researchers. In addition to providing training and technical assistance, these partners will develop new resources to support communities and develop a plan to guide research on mental illness and the justice system. NAMI will ensure that individuals and family members’ voices are front and center.

To learn more about this initiative, please visit or email us at [email protected]. You can also learn more about NAMI’s work to improve police interactions with people experiencing a mental health crisis by going to There, you'll find resources and ways to keep up to date about NAMI’s latest work to improve the criminal justice systems response to people with mental illness.

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).