The recent debate over defunding the police department has become a hot topic of conversation. When people hear the word “defund” I think it gets confused with “reform” which – when it comes down to money – should mean”reallocate” funds being allocated to specific departments for specific needs.
Most people don’t know that a huge percentage of 911 calls are for mental health issues, and for people in a crisis due to a person having an episode whether it’s a result of schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder, or others for there are several diagnosis that would fit a call for help. When I worked in the field with families dealing with loved ones having a break down or episode that needed a psychiatric evaluation to decipher the need for a 5150, the police would be called. The police are the the go-to on the speed dial for help, however, the police are not always the proper channel necessary to conduct such evaluations, which in turn takes away much needed finances for a psychiatric mobile response team to be dispatched that can carry out their duties to ascertain a situation that the police can’t, nor should, try to manage.
This can become a heated topic, however, I think it is important to take a step back at the bigger picture here. No one wants, for the most part, to demolish the police department, but we also need to be concerned with where the money is being allocated as the police department gets billions to fund their divisions, and are not equip with the tools to make a psychiatric hold on an individual. If we can rethink how we approach “crisis”and open the door to other entities that are appropriate for certain situations we can better have a system of checks and balances, and bring forth social order that can allow for a proper execution of handling disruptive situations.
When I speak with clients that have to call for help due to loved one in crisis, the majority know to call 911. Very few know the number to a hotline for a psychiatric mobile response team to come do an assessment on an individual that is in danger to others or danger to self or gravely disabled. This is a bold reality and a transparent look at a lack of understanding both publicly, and internally within departments. The misuse of monies to form a pragmatic solution to what we are dealing with in current times needs to be addressed.
If we are going to have a discussion on defunding the police, we need to pivot to a discussion for the reformation of the system so we can have a broader understanding of the issues at stake. A call to defund the police is a cry for help, but maybe the cry for help is really a need to rethink, readdress, reimagine, and reallocate funds to the proper channels to take on social needs.
If I were to speak to ten families today that are in crisis cause their loved one suffers from a mental health issue, I’d say only one of those families had the hotline for a psychiatric team to come out and do an assessment. 911 is not for everyone, nor should it be, so it should not get access to all the funds, and a redistribution of monies should be implemented to cover mental health needs and the teams that should be allocated to respond to those needs.
Things are moving and shaking as we speak. Money talks, period, and there needs to be transparency and I don’t see that being at the forefront of this debate. Education and a honest look at the holes in the system, and the money that is being funneled to specific government departments should be at the top of the list of conversation in order to allow us to have a stepping stone to reform our democracy. It is my opinion that such open discussions allow us to have a starting point on what we can do to repair our crippled times, and start anew.