The MHIST Model:

A Preventive Approach to Crisis and Public Safety

Effective collaboration between law enforcement and crisis systems can improve outcomes for people with mental illness and for public safety. For example, theMemphisModel of crisis intervention training (CIT) enhances police officers’ skills for safely deescalating crises. However, such programs focus on emergency response. After the 2011 shooting of U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords, the Tucson law enforcement community sought to develop a more upstream, proactive approach. The Tucson Police Department (TPD) and Pima County Sheriff’s Office (PCSO) enhanced their CIT programs by introducing the Mental Health Investigative Support Team (MHIST), which links individuals to services before a situation escalates to a crisis.

Core Components MHIST plays an important role in the civil commitment system. Arizona statute requires law enforcement to transport individuals to a treatment facility when assisted outpatient treatment is revoked (such as for missed appointments) or an application for evaluation is filed with the court. These transport orders are assigned to a dedicated teamofMHIST officers and deputies. Centralized tracking allows the most acutely ill individuals to be prioritized for location and transport. Having a dedicated team facilitates development of rapport with frequently served individuals. Team members wear plain clothes and drive unmarked cars to avoid the stigma and potential for behavioral escalation that can result from the sight of uniformed officers.

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