How NAMI Maryland is Improving Police Response to the Mentally Ill

Every day, our organization hears from families who are frustrated with how our police force responds to situations that involve an individual with a mental illness, as well as how little awareness there seems to be as to community resources that offer help in crisis situations or support to prevent a crisis from escalating. For many of these families, their loved ones spend years cycling through emergency rooms, prisons, or shelters. This is costly for communities, a burden on first responders, and tragic for the individual with a mental illness and their families. Many leave the system worse off and with fewer options for getting the treatment and services they desperately need.

How NAMI Maryland and its Local Affiliates Help

We offer a variety of free programs, including training for police officers. We train individuals with mental illness and their families to effectively present their personal experience, and provide useful tips on handling crisis situations involving a mentally ill person and/or their families.

One NAMI Maryland member, Sarah Crimmins, a graduate of NAMI’s In Our Own Voice program, bravely shares her personal experience during officer trainings. Sarah’s story illustrates ways police officers can effectively manage situations involving individuals with mental illness. Using her personal story about her encounters with police, she explains that the most important thing an officer can do is build a rapport with the individual and express care and concern for this person, as they are in a very vulnerable state.

Here in Maryland, we are fortunate that decision-makers support the expansion of Crisis Intervention Training (CIT) programs in jurisdictions across the state as part of an effort to address the cycle of crisis and improve outcomes in police interactions with individuals with mental illness. Effective CIT programs include the NAMI In Our Own Voice workshop and NAMI Maryland’s Working with Families in Crisis.

Support for Crisis Intervention Training

William McMahon, Director of the Leadership Development Institute at the Maryland Police and Correctional Training Commissions and retired Howard County police chief, believes that one of the biggest improvements in police response to mental health issues has been the implementation of CIT programs. He will present information about the significant positive outcomes associated with CIT at the NAMI Maryland Annual Conference on October-16-17, 2015 at The Conference Center at Sheppard Pratt. Presenting with Mr. McMahon will be Sgt. James Miller of the Easton Police Department and Melissa Reuland of the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, School of Psychiatry, Council of State Governments Justice Center and the Police Executive Research Forum. The discussion will focus on effective community programs to improve police response to mental illness, and how CIT programs can serve as a springboard for broader partnerships between local law enforcement agencies, behavioral health providers and communities. We are also extremely grateful that Stephen T. Moyer, Maryland Secretary of Public Safety & Correctional Services, will lend his support for NAMI Maryland and NAMI affiliates across the state, by attending a portion of the conference.

Our programs allow us to lead the conversation about mental illness and the criminal justice system throughout the state. We know that we can improve upon the outcomes between law enforcement and individuals with mental illness by resolving them in a humane and effective manner. Marylanders deserve nothing less. 

Conference Details 

Please join us on October 16 and 17 at The Conference Center at Sheppard Pratt for our annual conference. In addition to the presentation on law enforcement’s response to mental illness, the NAMI Maryland Annual Conference includes workshops on crisis intervention and safety, addictions, barriers to timely and effective treatment, and more. This conference is open to individuals with mental illness, families, faith leaders, community members, students, health care providers, criminal justice professionals, and anyone else interested in learning more about issues relating to mental illness.  For more information, please visit our site.

NAMI Maryland is the official state organization of NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) in Maryland.  It encompasses a statewide network of over 32,000 families, individuals, community-based organizations and providers.  

This post has been provided by NAMI Maryland and is not a reflection of the views of Sheppard Pratt Health System.