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Law Enforcement and Crisis Response

988 won’t just support individuals suffering from crisis, it will also benefit a burdened emergency response system.

Since 911 was designated as the first national emergency number in 1967, emergency response systems have grown with and adapted to a changing society. In a national survey of senior law enforcement, 63.6% of officers said that the amount of time spent on calls involving individuals with mental illness has increased during their careers.[6] Today, it is estimated that “at least 20% of police calls for service involve a mental health substance use crisis.”[1] In 2019, the Treatment Advocacy Center published the report Road Runners: The Role and Impact of Law Enforcement in Transporting Individuals with Severe Mental Illness. Listed below are several key findings from their study.

  • Nationwide, an estimated $918 million was spent by law enforcement on transporting people with severe mental illness in 2017.

  • The amount of time spent transporting people with mental illness by law enforcement agency survey respondents in 2017 sums to 165,295 hours, or more than 18 years.

  • 21% of total law enforcement staff time was used to respond to and transport individuals with mental illness in 2017.

  • Survey respondents drove a total of 5,424,212 miles transporting individuals with serious mental illness in 2017 — the equivalent of driving around the Earth’s equator more than 217 times.[2]

Undoubtedly, officers are doing their best to shoulder the responsibility of helping individuals experiencing crises. But it is possible to lighten their load. One of the major goals of 988 is to redirect police calls to a certified crisis call center with trained counselors. In cities piloting crisis response models, the benefits for both citizens and law enforcement are obvious. Harris County, Texas, for example, has adopted a 911 diversion program that has been highly successful. “Between March 2016 and March 2021, the program diverted nearly 7,500 calls from law enforcement response, equivalent to over 11,000 police hours and more than $2 million in resources saved for the police department. Between June 2017 and March 2021, it diverted more than 3,000 calls from fire department response, saving the department nearly $4.5 million over four years.”[3] Mobile crisis response teams, such as RIGHT Care and MCOT, allow even more calls to be diverted from law enforcement to a specialized behavioral response team. 

Public safety is more important than ever. Additional infrastructure is needed to help the current emergency response system adapt to meet the challenges of our day. Not only is 988 an investment in crisis response—it is also an investment in the health and wellbeing of our communities. Together, 911 and 988 will ensure that Texans can live safer, healthier lives.  


[1] Building mental health into emergency responses 

[2] Road Runners: The Role and Impact of Law Enforcement in Transporting Individuals with Severe Mental Illness

[3] Embedding Crisis Response in Harris County’s 911 Dispatch Center

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