WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Representatives Adam Smith (D-Wash.), Katie Porter (D-Calif.), and Cori Bush (D-Mo.) led 48 members of the House in urging the leadership of the Senate and House Committees on Appropriations to set aside robust federal funding for the creation and expansion of alternative crisis response teams to address mental health and substance abuse issues.

“Encouraging the use of behavioral health professionals to respond to mental health crisis situations improves the quality of crisis response and strengthens public safety by providing long term solutions to mental health and substance abuse issues,” the members wrote. “We have already seen significant progress that bolsters public safety in cities that have piloted unarmed responder units.” The members continued, “These initiatives have a demonstrated track record of not only providing more appropriate care to meet the needs of communities, but also reducing unnecessary interactions between police and community members.  The overwhelming majority of 911 calls involve mental health and substance use incidents, neighbor disputes, nuisance complaints, and requests for wellness checks that require appropriately trained, unarmed behavioral health professionals. Both the police and policing reform advocates often assert that specialized service providers—such as social workers, paramedics, and peer support counselors—are better equipped to handle such situations than armed officers.
Establishing crisis response teams requires significant funding to cover the costs of training, retaining, and equipping these teams. State and local governments need federal assistance to help cover these costs. Federal funding will help to ensure that these programs are able to get off the ground and make a positive impact on the health and safety of communities across the country.
The members urged their colleagues on the Committee on Appropriations to include substantial funding more in line with the House-passed level of funding of $100 million for crisis response teams in the final conference agreement they are preparing.
The members concluded the letter, “At a time when many people in our communities are facing mental health, economic, and personal difficulties, it is critical that we make investments in public safety programs that center mental health care and work to resolve the underlying conditions of so many emergency calls—homelessness, substance abuse, and other chronic health issues. Existing 911 response limited to police, fire, or EMT services have been overwhelmed and simply do not meet the needs of the communities they serve. A focus on a wholistic public safety approach centered on the needs of communities is long overdue.
A full copy of the letter can be found here.
The letter was signed by Representatives Karen Bass (D-Calif.), Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.),  Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.), Anthony G. Brown, (D-Md.), Tony Cárdenas (D-Calif.), André Carson (D-Ind.), Sean Casten (D-Ill.), Judy Chu (D-Calif.), Yvette D. Clarke (D-N.Y.), Gerald E. Connolly (D-Va.), Jason Crow (D-Colo.), Danny K. Davis (D-Ill.), Madeleine Dean (D-Pa.), Peter A. DeFazio (D-Ore.), Anna G. Eshoo (D-Calif.), Dwight Evans (D-Pa.), Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.), Jesús G. "Chuy" García (D-Ill.), Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), Hank Johnson (D-Ga.), Mondaire Jones (D-N.Y.), Kaiali‘i Kahele (D-Hawaii), Robin Kelly (D-Ill.), Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), Andy Levin (D-Mich.), Mike Levin (D-Calif.), Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), Lucy McBath (D-Ga.), Gregory W. Meeks (D-N.Y.), Gwen Moore (D-Wis.), Grace F. Napolitano (D-Calif.), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Dean Phillips (D-Minn.), Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), Michael F.Q. San Nicolas (D-Guam), Mary Gay Scanlon (D-Pa.), Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.), Marilyn Strickland (D-Wash.), Mike Thompson (D-Calif.), Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), Marc Veasey (D-Texas), Nydia M. Velázquez (D-N.Y.), and Nikema Williams (D-Ga.).