Like many cities, Indianapolis faced an overburdened criminal justice system involving a high rate of people with mental health issues. Last summer, the city of Indianapolis began a new program to help with emergency calls involving mental health issues. The city was looking for better ways to deal with the problems presented by substance abuse and mental illness and the burdens placed on the criminal justice system. So the city established Mobile Crisis Assistance Teams (MCAT) to address the issues head-on.
Mobile Crisis Assistance Teams
Each of the MCATs consists of a police officer, a paramedic, and a licensed mental health professional who is trained in how to de-escalate situations. The MCATs respond to crisis calls in the city’s East District involving mental health issues. These calls usually involve domestic violence, emotional abuse, or substance abuse. The MCATs dispatch themselves or show up at the request of first responders. The pilot program was established to help reduce the number of individuals brought to jail or the emergency room.
The program aims to divert people away from the criminal justice system and towards behavioral health providers and social services. This would lessen the burden on first responders and relieve them from having to handle complicated and time-consuming emergency situations.
Is the Program Successful?
Researchers from Indiana University Public Policy Institute’s (PPI) Center for Criminal Justice Research collected and analyzed data from the first five months of the program’s operation. The research found that 59% of the calls the MCATs responded to involved mental health crises, followed by drug overdoses and threats of suicide. In 2/3 of their runs, the MCATs were able to relieve other first responders. The study found that MCATs were significantly more likely to transport a person to receive medical treatment rather than arresting them, with only 2% of their calls resulting in an arrest.
While initial results from the program were very promising, the study noted that there was a still room for improvement. The most important factor that would help with the success of MCATs is the availability of long-term behavioral health treatment in the community for those individuals the teams encounter. Without these options, the impact of the MCATs can only go so far.
If you or a loved one has mental illness and has been arrested or convicted of a crime, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side. Elizabeth Kelley specializes in representing individuals with mental illnesses. To schedule a consultation call (509) 991-7058.