Cosponsor the Mental Health Justice Act

Mental health and substance use disorders (MH/SUD) require health care, but the absence of accessible, affordable MH/SUD care has led people in crisis to be more likely to encounter police than to get needed medical attention. Jails and prisons are overcrowded with people arrested for minor, nonviolent offenses who would be better served through health and social services. While often the default first responders, police are not adequately prepared to appropriately respond to behavioral health crises, and too often, police encounters with individuals with mental illness end tragically.

We urge you to send the below message to your members of Congress to encourage them to cosponsor the Mental Health Justice Act (S. 515/H.R. 1368), which would provide funding and technical assistance for mental health provider first responder units to respond to mental health and substance use crises rather than police.  

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Message

Cosponsor the Mental Health Justice Act

Dear [Decision Maker],

I write to urge you to cosponsor the Mental Health Justice Act (S. 515/H.R. 1368), which would provide funding and technical assistance for state and local governments to send trained mental health professionals instead of police to 911 calls for mental health crises.

Mental health and substance use disorders (MH/SUD) require health care, but the absence of accessible, affordable MH/SUD care has led people in crisis to be more likely to encounter police than to get needed medical attention. Jails and prisons are overcrowded with people arrested for minor, nonviolent offenses who would be better served through health and social services. People with mental illness are too often the victims of fatal police shootings, with incidents often involving drugs or alcohol. Police response to mental health crises can be especially damaging in Black communities and other communities of color. Police are not adequately trained or prepared to appropriately respond to behavioral health crises, and most individuals with MH/SUD do not receive the treatment they need once in jail.

Mental health and substance use disorders are health care issues, not crimes, and should be treated as such with appropriate crisis response that connects people to care, not jail. The Mental Health Justice Act would create a grant program to pay for hiring, training, salary, benefits, and other expenses for mental health provider first responder units, which would respond to mental health crisis 911 calls instead of police. It would also provide access to technical assistance for states and localities with such programs.

Thank you for your consideration. I hope you will cosponsor the Mental Health Justice Act to create safer and more appropriate and compassionate responses to the growing mental health and addiction crises.

Sincerely,
[Your Name]

Recipients

  • Your Senators
  • Your Representative