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Sunday, September 12, 2021

National Training for Police and Mental Health Crisis Support

In The Politics of Autism, I discuss interactions between police and autistic people.  Police officers need training to respond appropriately.  When they do not -- as recent events have shown -- things get out of hand

Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) and Senator Jerry Moran (R-KA) reintroduced the bipartisan Law Enforcement Education and Accountability for People with Disabilities (LEAD) Initiative. This legislation will help bring about racial justice and address the high incidence rate of police violence involving people with autism and other disabilities. The LEAD Initiative consists of two bills – the Safe Interactions Act (SIA) and the Human-services Emergency Logistic Program (HELP) Act. These two bills are also introduced in the House. Representative Anna Eshoo (D-CA) introduced the HELP Act and Representatives Susan Wild (D-PA) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) introduced the SIA Act.

From Senator Casey:

The HELP Act is a proposal to connect people in communities with the human services they need while at the same time reducing the call and response burden on local and state law enforcement agencies. The Act would: 

  • Divert non-criminal, non-fire and non-medical emergency calls from 9-1-1 systems to state and regional 2-1-1 systems. 
  • Provide each state with funds to build out its 2-1-1 referral system to link callers to both emergency and long-term human services in order to address their needs. Special emphasis would be placed on responses for mental health emergencies, homelessness needs and other non-criminal emergencies.  In addition, the 2-1-1 system would be a robust resource and referral system capable of linking individuals and families to other human services needs such as food assistance and child care. 
  •  Create an oversight system for the 2-1-1 networks comprised of community members who represent older adults, people with disabilities, ethnic and racial community members and members of other communities. Each system would be evaluated every year and recommendations to improve services would be made public.
The Safe Interactions Act provides grants to enable nonprofit disability organizations to form partnerships with a law enforcement agency or agencies, to develop training programs that support the safe interactions between law enforcement officers and people with diverse disabilities by increasing the understanding of different disability types among new and veteran law enforcement officers. Preference will be given to applicants with partnerships that will train law enforcement officers in rural communities and include racial and ethnic minorities and black, indigenous, people of color in the trainings.The Act would require: 
  • Partnerships between a nonprofit disability organization and law enforcement agencies. • Inclusion of self-advocates in the development and implementation of trainings, including a diverse group of disability types such as intellectual and developmental disabilities, mental health disabilities, and sensory and/or physical disabilities.
  • A minimum of eight hours of training for new law enforcement officers, including four hours of interactive sessions led by trainers with disabilities, and at least four hours of training every year for existing law enforcement officers.
  • The establishment of an advisory council, chaired by a person with a disability, to oversee the training program development and implementation