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LEAD Initiative would enhance state and regional 2-1-1 and 9-8-8 call systems, divert non-emergency calls to human services and mental health agencies

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) will introduce two bipartisan policing reform bills to address the high incidence rate of violence involving people with disabilities. The Law Enforcement Education and Accountability for People with Disabilities (LEAD) Initiative is comprised of two bills: the Human-services Emergency Logistics Program (HELP) Act and the Safe Interactions Act. Among other reforms, the LEAD Initiative would enhance state and regional 2-1-1 and 9-8-8 call systems, diverting some non-criminal emergency calls away from 9-1-1 and toward human services and mental health support agencies. U.S. Representatives Susan Wild (D-PA-7) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA-1) are introducing companion legislation in the House of Representatives.

“As lawmakers, we must do everything in our power to prevent tomorrow’s tragedies. The Pennsylvania families of Walter Wallace, Jr., Ricardo Muñoz and Osaze Osagie needed mental health crisis support and they didn’t get it. It is time to take action,” said Senator Casey. “The LEAD Initiative would connect people and police with the resources they need, reduce demands on police and provide law enforcement with the knowledge and skills necessary in a crisis situation.”

“We must do more to ensure that interactions between law enforcement and people experiencing a mental health crisis or living with a disability are rooted in best practices for the safety and wellbeing of all parties,” said Rep. Wild. “That is why I am leading the bipartisan Safe Interactions Act alongside Senator Casey and Representative Fitzpatrick to provide comprehensive training for law enforcement officers and increase our collective ability to help prevent miscommunication between vulnerable populations and law enforcement officers trying to keep us safe.”

“Without sufficient training, it can be difficult for a law enforcement officer to identify someone who has a disability and know how to interact with that person to avoid any miscommunication. The Safe Interactions Act will help provide officers access to such training, which will be developed in partnership with those who do have disabilities, in order to create safer communities,” Patrick Yoes, National President of the Fraternal Order of Police.

“United Way and the 211 network are grateful to Senator Casey for introducing the HELP Act,” said Suzanne McCormick, U.S. President, United Way Worldwide. “211 is a vital resource supporting over 95 percent of communities in the U.S. and this expansion of coverage means that more people can get the help they need, particularly those with mental health and other challenges. United Way looks forward to working with Senator Casey to expand mental health and other critical services to the American people during these difficult times.”

The Washington Post database of police shootings estimates that at least 25 percent of shootings involve a person with a mental health disability. A 2016 Ruderman Foundation report estimated that between one-third and half of 2015 shootings involving a law enforcement officer included a person with a disability.

The HELP Act would divert non-criminal, non-fire and non-medical emergency calls from 9-1-1 systems to state and regional 2-1-1 and 9-8-8 systems, while providing resources and funding to improve 2-1-1 and 9-8-8 referral systems. The bill would create an oversight system for the 2-1-1 and 9-8-8 networks comprised of community members who represent older adults, people with disabilities, ethnic and racial community members, Tribal and Native Peoples and LGBTQ+ people. The HELP Act is cosponsored by U.S. Senators Jerry Moran (R-KS), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Mark Kelly (D-AZ) and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI).

The Safe Interactions Act would provide grants to enable non-profit disability organizations to develop training programs that support safe interactions between law enforcement officers and people with disabilities. The training would be directed to both new and veteran officers and would include people with disabilities in the training as instructors. It would also establish an advisory council, chaired by a person with a disability, to oversee the training program development and implementation. The Safe Interactions Act is cosponsored by U.S. Senators Jerry Moran (R-KS), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT).

Read more about HELP here.

Read more about Safe Interactions Act here.