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Following Spate of Encounters in PA and Across the Nation, Casey’s Bill Would Enhance State and Regional 2-1-1 Call System

Washington, D.C. – As the Nation reckons with the high profile killings of Black Americans at the hands of police officers and growing calls for policy changes to prevent future violence, U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) is launching the Law Enforcement Education and Accountability for People with Disabilities (LEAD) Initiative, to help bring about racial justice and address the high incidence rate of police violence involving people with disabilities. The LEAD Initiative is comprised of two bills – the Safe Interactions Act and the Human-services Emergency Logistic Program (HELP) Act – which would reduce calls to 9-1-1 call systems regarding non-criminal emergencies and provide robust training to law enforcement on interacting with people with disabilities, including those experiencing a mental health crisis.

“The families of Walter Wallace, Jr., Ricardo Munoz and Osaze Osagie needed mental health crisis support and they didn’t get it,” said Senator Casey. “We must take action to ensure that someone’s ethnicity or mental ability does not preclude them from receiving protection and fair treatment. My LEAD initiative aims to protect the promise of liberty and justice for all by reforming our emergency systems so that people and police are connected with the resources they need.”

“United Way and the 211 network are deeply 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 illnesses and other disabilities. United Way looks forward to working with Senator Casey to expand 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 systems, while providing resources and funding to improve 2-1-1 referral systems. The bill would create an oversight system for the 2-1-1 networks comprised of community members who represent older adults, people with disabilities, ethnic and racial community members and members of other communities. The HELP Act is cosponsored by U.S. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) 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 Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH).

Read more about the HELP Act here.

Read more about the Safe Interactions Act here.