Public Safety Redefined: Mitigating Trauma by Centering the Community in Community Mental Health

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American Psychologist


The summer of 2020 marked a shift in public perception of police brutality and racism in the United States. Following the police murder of George Floyd and ensuing social unrest, the appropriate role and function of the police in communities have been a frequent topic of debate. Of particular concern is the intersection of policing and mental health where we see a pattern of police using excessive force disproportionately against persons with disabilities, especially mental health disabilities (Autistic Self Advocacy Network, 2017). The introduction of race only exacerbates this disparity (Saleh et al., 2018). Given the realities of these mental health inequities, the aim of this scoping review is to explore first response models/programs that emphasize a therapeutic intervention as an alternative to policing. Seventeen articles were selected for inclusion in the review, six exploratory or experimental studies and 11 review or discussion articles. Using findings from the review, we offer recommendations to help reimagine this country’s approach to emergency response. We urge psychologists and other health care providers to step out of the clinic and engage the community in the development of crisis responses for mental health emergencies that are therapeutic rather than inflammatory, healing rather than harming.

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