It’s obvious that homelessness and mental health are huge issues in America. But let’s take a minute and set aside the enormous human toll. Just looking at your budgets, there’s an extremely persuasive economic argument for offering officers better training to deal with calls where there many be a mental health issue involved.
Investment in Mental Health Training Pays for Itself
In a recent radio interview, State Court Administrator for Michigan, Milton Mack (who also formerly served as the chief judge of Wayne County Probate Court) noted the success of the mental health training program embraced by law enforcement in Miami-Dade County, Florida:
“Miami-Dade County has developed a fairly comprehensive program for addressing mental health issues,” Mack explained. “They train all officers in Miami-Dade—over 5,000—in Crisis Intervention Training. As a result of that training, the shooting of persons with mental illness dropped dramatically and injuries to law enforcement dropped dramatically, because of the change in the interaction with persons. And then, instead of arresting people with mental illness on a mental health call, they’d try to talk the person down. If that didn’t succeed, they’d take them to a crisis intervention center, instead of arresting them. So, for the last 10,000 mental health calls in Miami-Dade, it resulted in 139 arrests. As a result of what they’ve done, they’ve closed a jail—saving $12 million per year—their workers’ comp premium went down because law enforcement wasn’t being injured.”
Additionally, when Miami-Dade went to New York for their bond rating review, the bonding agency looked at the dramatic drop in litigations resulting from these enhancements to the county’s mental health training program—and chose to raise the county’s bond rating.
Mental Health Training and Homelessness
Miami-Dade’s outcomes are far from unique. Studies have shown that, in general, proper mental health training can result in an 80% reduction in officer injuries during mental health crisis calls (in addition to the savings that come with diverting a significant number of individuals with substance and mental health problems away from incarceration and into cost-effective community-based treatment programs).
These savings are magnified further when you consider the overlap between homelessness and mental health. As Officer Daniel McDonald (Tampa PD) highlighted in his “The Top 10 Reasons to Start a Police Homeless Outreach Team (and How)” presentation, many communities have found substantial cost savings come with even small investments in their homeless and mental health training programs:
Portland State University found that each dollar invested in mental health training yielded $13 in savings in crime and criminal justice system costs.
In his own county, Officer McDonald discovered “Million Dollar Billy,” a single homeless individual with over 180 jail bookings (at $125/day). Diving into the arrest records for Hillsborough County, Florida, he discovered that over the last 20 years they’d spent roughly $1 million per year incarcerating homeless individuals (almost all needing treatment for mental health, substance abuse, or chronic medical conditions).
On average, you can house and treat a homeless person for $12,000/year—or jail them for $45,000/year.
But just because a choice is obvious, that doesn’t make it easy. MILO Range Training Systems is eager to help communities craft the right mental health training programs for their officers and first responders with simulation training. Contact us today to begin discussing what you need.