The Legislation Would Provide Training on De-Escalation, and How to Safely and Effectively Handle Mental Health, Behavioral Health, & Substance Use Crises
WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Representative Spanberger — a former federal law enforcement officer — last night voted with a bipartisan majority of the U.S. House to pass legislation that would provide federal funding to help law enforcement officers respond more effectively to Americans experiencing mental health, behavioral health, and substance use crises.
As many Virginians continue to struggle with substance use disorder and mental health challenges, local police departments are being asked to address these complex challenges without sufficient federal support. The Law Enforcement De-Escalation Training Act would help police departments across Virginia train their officers and the mental health professionals who work with them in de-escalation tactics, alternatives to use of force, safely responding to crises, and making referrals to community-based mental and behavioral health services.
“Virginia law enforcement officers are responding to an increasing number of emergencies with members of our communities experiencing mental health crises. These calls can be highly volatile, and officers are not always properly trained on how to de-escalate these situations,” said Spanberger. “We need to make sure that our first responders have all the tools and training they need to keep those in crisis and themselves safe. This bipartisan bill would save lives and help our neighbors who are struggling with mental health issues get the help they need.”
The bipartisan Law Enforcement De-Escalation Training Act would:
- Require the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) office at the U.S. Department of Justice to develop training for law enforcement and mental health professionals on effective de-escalation tactics, alternatives to the use of force, safely responding to an individual experiencing a mental or behavioral health crisis, and making referrals to appropriate programs and services.
- Authorize $40 million in Fiscal Year 2025 and $50 million in Fiscal Year 2026 in for training, including scenario-based exercises and evaluative assessments.
- Require the National Institute of Justice and the Government Accountability Office to evaluate the implementation of the program and the effect of the training to ensure that the curricula have a tangible impact on law enforcement encounters with people in crisis and identify possible changes that would further improve outcomes.
The bill is endorsed by the Fraternal Order of Police, Major County Sheriffs of America, Major Cities Chiefs Association, National Criminal Justice Association, National Association of Police Organizations, National Sheriffs’ Association, National Association of Counties, American Psychological Association, National Alliance on Mental Illness, American Counseling Association, National Register of Health Service Psychologists, American Association of Suicidology, College of Psychiatric and Neurologic Pharmacists, American Association on Health and Disability, Lakeshore Foundation, Anxiety and Depression Association of America, American Association for Psychoanalysis in Clinical Social Work, Maternal Mental Health Leadership Alliance, National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners, National Association of County Behavioral Health and Developmental Disability Directors, National Association for Rural Mental Health, National Federation of Families, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, the Network of Jewish Human Service Agencies, and the Niskanen Center.