The Department of Justice’s Office of Justice Programs (OJP) today announced grant awards totaling $34 million to help communities address crises involving homelessness, mental health and substance use disorders, and other public health and public safety emergencies. The grants, made by OJP’s Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) and National Institute of Justice (NIJ), will support partnerships between justice system officials, health and mental health professionals and community providers designed to reduce arrests, divert individuals from the justice system and deliver the appropriate treatment and other support services to those in need.
“We simply cannot arrest or incarcerate our way out of the challenges presented by untreated mental illness, co-occurring substance use, homelessness and poverty,” said Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta. “These resources awarded today reaffirm our commitment to support diversion programs and expand community partnerships so that people are connected to the help they need and are kept out of the criminal justice system whenever possible.”
Law enforcement officers are typically first on the scene of a community emergency — whether the crisis is a drug overdose or an episode of psychiatric distress — but they often have neither the training nor the tools to respond adequately. Police departments report an increase in service calls involving people with mental health and substance use disorders, yet the presence of an armed officer often heightens stress and can exacerbate tensions, leading to poor outcomes. Many cities have begun to institute community responder models in which treatment providers and other health professionals are dispatched separately or alongside law enforcement. These approaches were featured during the Taking the Call conference organized by the Council of State Governments Justice Center and the University of Cincinnati in partnership with BJA and headlined by the Attorney General in October.
“A just society is one in which we are able to meet the basic needs of individuals without imposing unnecessary punishments and inflaming community tensions,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Amy L. Solomon for OJP. “These resources will support and strengthen partnerships between public safety agencies and local organizations, giving communities the tools to deliver badly needed services, reduce reliance on arrests and incarceration for social and behavioral health issues and take steps toward a more fair and equitable system of justice.”
The grants announced today demonstrate the department’s focus on addressing the needs of individuals with behavioral health conditions and build on more than $300 million in new investments this year to fight the opioid and stimulant crisis and address substance use disorders, including drug court and mentoring initiatives, correctional substance use treatment programs and efforts to address the prevention, diversion, treatment and recovery needs of those affected by substance use disorders. Below is a summary of funding tailored to support community crisis response efforts:
- Nearly $18.3 million funds the Connect and Protect: Law Enforcement Behavioral Health Response Program, which supports a law enforcement-behavioral health cross-system collaboration to improve public safety for individuals with mental health or co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders who come in contact with the justice system
- BJA is awarding $11.9 million under its Justice and Mental Health Collaboration Program, which supports public safety efforts through partnerships with social service and other organizations to enhance responses to individuals with mental health or co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders.
- BJA is awarding $2.3 million under the Collaborative Crisis Response Training Program, which supports training to prepare law enforcement and correctional officers to appropriately interact with people who have behavioral health conditions or disabilities.
- NIJ is providing almost $1.5 million under its Research and Evaluation on the Police Response to Homelessness, which supports research and evaluation projects to conduct exploratory research and secondary/open data analysis to assess the range of practices, strategies and tactics used by police to respond to homelessness.
Once the awards are made, information about the grantees selected under each solicitation can be found online at the OJP Grant Awards Page.
The Office of Justice Programs provides federal leadership, grants, training, technical assistance and other resources to improve the nation’s capacity to prevent and reduce crime, advance racial equity in the administration of justice, assist victims and enhance the rule of law. More information about OJP and its components can be found at www.ojp.gov.