A Proactive, Collaborative Approach to Community Mental Health: The Hurst, Euless, and Bedford (HEB) Model

Police departments face numerous challenges every day in their officers? interactions with persons with mental illness. These encounters are on the rise, so departments everywhere are trying to develop better ways for officers to appropriately interact with persons with mental illness in order to obtain the best outcome in a crisis situation. The past trend in law enforcement was to lower crime by assertively enforcing the law and incarcerating offenders, including those with mental illnesses. However, a significant transformation in policing has occurred; police officers are not only enforcing the law, but they are also taking on the task of managing the significant populations of persons with mental illness in their cities. The first responders to a mental health crisis are not mental health specialists such as doctors, nurses, and clinicians, but peace officers. To manage this emerging responsibility, police departments are training their officers in the realm of mental health response through crisis intervention training (CIT), and some departments are providing more advanced training with the Mental Health Peace Officer Certification. A certified Mental Health Officer is a specially trained officer who is better equipped to make good diagnostic impressions, use specific communication skills depending on the clients? condition to de-escalate a crisis, and build an ongoing rapport to help coordinate resources as the need arises.1 The genesis of this transformation in policing can be seen in the treatment history of persons with mental illness by medical and criminal justice organizations.