Assemblymember Kansen Chu Introduces Bill to Improve Police Dispatcher Training to Address Mental Health Crises

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

CONTACT: Annie Pham, (916) 319-2025     

(SACRAMENTO, CA) – Today, Assemblymember Kansen Chu (D-San Jose) introduced AB 680, a bill to improve mental illness identification and crisis de-escalation by requiring mental health crisis training for all 911 dispatchers. The goal is to ensure the safety of all people involved and to help people experiencing mental health crises receive appropriate intervention and care, rather than becoming involved with the criminal justice system.

“Too many law enforcement interactions with people in mental health crisis end in tragedy,” said Assemblymember Kansen Chu. “AB 680 will provide dispatchers, who are often the first point of contact in a crisis, with valuable training to help identify a mental health crisis and inform law enforcement how to appropriately approach the situation on the ground. At least 20 percent of adults in jails and prisons have a recent history of mental illness and 70 percent of youth who are incarcerated have at least one mental health condition. We need to do better to connect people with the appropriate services. This bill will both better inform those on the ground and provide important health intervention procedure for the person in crisis.”

The bill is sponsored by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) California.

“NAMI California envisions a future in which all interactions between first responders and those in a mental health crisis are safe, healing and accommodating. Across California, families and individuals living with mental illness depend on dispatchers to know who to call to make sure incidents remain safe for all involved,” said NAMI-California CEO Jessica Cruz. “This legislation gives dispatchers the tools they need to facilitate the safety and efficiency of these encounters by summoning the right people, providing the most accurate information to those called and protecting us as citizens as well as the brave first responders who arrive to provide assistance.”

Assemblymember Chu is also collaborating the Steinberg Institute on this effort. 

“Public safety dispatchers are very often on the front line when it comes to handling people with mental health issues, so it is vital that dispatchers get trained to handle such calls for service, just as other law enforcement officers are required to do, so they can help recognize, deescalate and appropriately respond to people with mental illness, intellectual disabilities, and substance abuse disorders,” said Maggie Merritt, the Executive Director for the Steinberg Institute. “Such training can mean the difference between life and death. It just makes good sense.”  

Assemblymember Kansen Chu is proud to represent the 25th Assembly District, comprised of the cities of Fremont, Milpitas, Newark, Santa Clara and San Jose.

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