Behavioral Health and the Consent Decree
In April 2017, the City of Baltimore entered into a consent decree with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to resolve DOJ's findings that it believed the Baltimore City Police Department (BPD) had engaged in a pattern and practice of conduct that violates the First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. One section of the decree dealt specifically with response to behavioral health crises, whereby the City agreed “to conduct an assessment to identify gaps in the behavioral health service system, recommend solutions, and assist with implementation of the recommendations as appropriate.”
The goal of the assessment was to: analyze a sample of police interactions with people with behavioral health disabilities to identify systemic barriers and solutions; and for the Public Behavioral Health System (PBHS) at large, to identify gaps in behavioral health services, problems with the quality or quantity of existing services, and other unmet needs that in turn can lead to preventable criminal justice system involvement. In collaboration with Behavioral Health System Baltimore (BHSB), Human Services Research Institute (HSRI), and the Collaborative Planning and Implementation Committee (CPIC), a working group –comprised of a wide range of individuals and organizations working to improve encounters between law enforcement and people with behavioral health disorders, in December 2019 the City published the Public Behavioral Health System Gap Analysis Report.
Defining what policing looks like for a community is the most consequential decision any local government can make. It is clear that the status quo solutions for policing, public safety, and addressing the needs of those experiencing behavioral health crises simply are not providing the best outcomes for our residents. The urgency of this moment demands coordination across different agencies and local partners. The City has developed the Gap Analysis Implementation Plan to address the recommendations identified within the Public Behavioral Health System Gap Analysis Report. This plan aligns with the requirements of our consent decree and demonstrates a commitment to addressing these gaps in our public behavioral health system. Outlined is a multi-year approach to reducing unnecessary police encounters with people in crisis and specifically highlights the non-enforcement measures the City will take collectively to bridge the gaps that lead to these unnecessary interactions. The implementation provides an opportunity to transform the behavioral health landscape in Baltimore City and truly provide the resources and support to those experiencing behavioral health crisis needs.
This is the first draft, available for public comment between September 30 and October 30, 2021: