Guns may not kill people, but when the mentally ill do, it can—and has—resulted in mass slaughter.
As social service providers struggle to meet the demand for psychiatric rehabilitation programs, many police agencies are finding themselves reluctantly cast as community “caregivers of last resort.” And when the next mental health-related mass shooting inevitably occurs, the public will again question whether law enforcement could have prevented the carnage.
Two agencies in Southern Arizona, the Pima County Sheriff’s Department and Tucson Police Department, are taking on that challenge. The joint Mental Health Support Team—part special investigations unit, part information clearinghouse, and full-on crime prevention task force—serves with a three-pronged approach: Identify individuals at high risk for violence. Connect (or reconnect) them with local behavioral health service providers. Then hold them accountable to court-ordered treatment plans.
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