UFPD to serve as national learning site on responding to people with mental illnesses
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The University of Florida Police Department has been selected to act in a mentor role to help other law enforcement agencies across the country improve their responses to people with mental illnesses.
The Council of State Governments Justice Center, with assistance from a team of expert advisory board members and the Bureau of Justice Assistance, U.S. Department of Justice, selected UFPD to act as a peer-to-peer learning site. UFPD is one of six sites selected through a national, competitive process to participate in this Bureau of Justice Assistance project. The other five are: the Houston Police Department, the Los Angeles Police Department, the Madison (Wisc.) Police Department, the Portland (Maine) Police Department and the Salt Lake City Police Department.
Throughout the United States, a large number of people with serious mental illnesses are cycling through the criminal justice system. The Bureau of Justice Assistance created the Law Enforcement/Mental Health Learning Sites Initiative to help interrupt the cycle of criminal justice involvement — providing better outcomes for all involved and making the best use of law enforcement and other criminal justice resources.
The six agencies selected will provide resources for state and local agencies creating or improving programs to respond to people with mental illnesses, such as a Crisis Intervention Team, mental health/law enforcement co-response team or case management team. The goal is to make officers’ encounters with mentally ill people safer and more successful. Each learning site will host site visits, answer questions from the field and work with CSG Justice Center staff to develop materials for practitioners and community partners.
“The University of Florida Police Department has proven to be a leader in innovative law enforcement responses to people with mental illnesses,” Justice Center Director Michael Thompson said. “We are confident that the agency will provide valuable support and assistance to other agencies and lawmakers interested in improving or enhancing their own Specialized Policing Response.”
Each year, UFPD officers help mitigate situations with students, faculty and staff suffering from mental illness. UFPD collaborates with a team of professionals from the Office of Student Affairs, including the Dean of Students, Counseling and Wellness Center and Housing and Resident Education. UFPD also works closely with Human Resource Services, which oversees the university’s Employee Assistance Program.
“Providing our officers with the skills and tools they need to link people to services when appropriate and ensure public and officer safety is of critical importance,” Chief Linda Stump said. “We appreciate the opportunity to serve as a learning site for our colleagues in other agencies so that they can build on our successes and to learn from the obstacles we have overcome.”
Information about the learning sites project and instructions on how to request technical assistance from the UFPD is available on the project’s website at www.consensusproject.org/learningsites. Additional research and resource materials can be found at www.consensusproject.org/issue_areas/law-enforcement.