Individuals – Bonkiewicz et al. (2014)

Study Reference:

Bonkiewicz, L., Green, A. M., Moyer, K., & Wright, J. (2014). Left alone when the cops go home: evaluating a post-mental health crisis assistance program. Policing: An International Journal of Police Strategies & Management, 37(4), 762-778.

Location in the Matrix; Methodological Rigor; Outcome:

Individuals; Focused; Reactive; Rigorous; Effective

What police practice or strategy was examined?

This study examined a referral-based post-crisis assistance program (PCAP) for individuals who experienced a mental health crisis that generated a police response. Officers responding to these calls can contact mental health services providers who provide prompt follow-up. The program is designed to offer additional mental health support and follow-up to these individuals, reducing the likelihood of additional calls for service and further justice system involvement. Individuals receiving follow-up from the PCAP are referred to the program by the initial responding officer and subsequently accept assistance from the peer specialist who makes contact.

How was the intervention evaluated?

The study sample included 166 individuals who received PCAP assistance and 573 individuals who did not receive PCAP assistance, for a total sample size of 739. The control group included subjects that did not receive a program contact either because the officer did not make a referral (perhaps due to the officer’s unfamiliarity with the program) or because the PCAP providers could not contact the subject. These individuals not receiving support were matched to the treatment subjects (via propensity score matching) based on a range of mental health, police interaction, and demographic variables. Impacts of the intervention were measured at six months following referral based on the occurrence of subsequent calls for service, arrest, and emergency protective custody.

What were the key findings?

Over the 6-month evaluation period, individuals receiving PCAP support generated fewer mental health calls for service (by approximately one call for service per subject), were 19-27% less likely to be arrested, and were 9-17% less likely to enter emergency protective custody when compared to the matched group who did not receive PCAP support.

What were the implications for law enforcement?

Partnerships between police departments and mental health groups can provide better support for individuals experiencing a mental health crisis and reduce the burden on police departments by decreasing the occurrence of future mental health-related police-citizen interactions. The authors note that this program should not be seen as replacing crisis intervention training or officer understanding of mental health challenges, but rather serve as a next step following the initial interaction to ensure the provision of mental health services and decrease the likelihood of further calls.

Where can I find more information about this intervention, similar types of intervention, or related studies?