The Tucson Mental Health Support Team (MHST) Model: A prevention focused approach to crisis and public safety

ABSTRACT While Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) programs provide law enforcement with tools to respond to mental health crisis, they are focused on the emergency response. The Tucson Mental Health Support Team (MHST) model was developed following a mass casualty event in order to prevent crises and associated threats to public safety via earlier intervention. Through the creation of dedicated teams and close collaboration with the mental health system, the Tucson Police Department and Pima County Sheriff’s Office MHST program has achieved zero uses of force while serving civil commitment transport orders, a significant decrease in SWAT deployments to suicide-related calls, and case examples of averted threats to public safety. This model can be implemented along with CIT and Mental Health First Aid programs, adding to the continuum of solutions available to law enforcement for addressing mental health needs in the communities they serve.

INTRODUCTION On January 8, 2011, Jared Loughner opened fire into a crowded supermarket parking lot in Tucson, Arizona. The attack left six dead and thirteen wounded, including U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords, his intended target. The resulting investigation would reveal that Loughner had been displaying signs of deteriorating mental health but did not receive needed evaluation and treatment, despite multiple encounters with school officials, campus police, and local law enforcement.

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