As communities in the United States are reimagining the response to mental health emergencies, Fountain House and a network of Clubhouses around the country are part of a movement to establish a public-health first approach.
At least 1 in every 4 people killed in response to an emergency call has a serious mental illness. Those killed are disproportionately people of color. Having a mental health emergency, particularly if you’re Black, can be a frightening and sometimes deadly proposition when it comes to police encounters. Just this year, this was the case for Daniel Prude in Rochester, New York, for Damien Daniels, in San Antonio, for George Zapantis in New York City. And it was the case of 66-year-old Deborah Danner, a Fountain House member who was killed in a police shooting after a confrontation in her apartment in the Bronx following a mental health call by her neighbor in October 2016.
Advocating for alternatives
To break this pattern, Fountain House is standing with Clubhouses around the country to advance a national public education and policy campaign aimed at instituting innovative public health responses to mental health emergencies - ones that advance public safety. [Read the op-ed by Fountain House president and CEO, Dr. Ashwin Vasan.]
The time is now to develop methods to address urgent mental health care needs:
- American voters overwhelmingly want their elected officials to do more to support mental health care.
- We are facing a secondary mental health pandemic in the wake of the coronavirus.
- Police are being asked to do jobs they were never intended to do – being first responders to people who have mental health emergencies or who are homeless.
- U.S. cities have been piloting and implementing public health solutions that work. These models use trained, civilian first responders and redirect funding to support a more nuanced and appropriate urgent response for people with mental health concerns.
We envision a future that relieves police of the burden of dealing with mental health care, to minimize interactions that escalate to life-threatening encounters, and where police resources will be freed up to focus on addressing actual crimes.
Fountain House is an internationally recognized nonprofit that has inspired a network of more than 300 similar models sharing our mission to empower people with mental health needs to chart their own life trajectories with dignity and support. This multi-city campaign, run in coordination with a group of Fountain House’s local network partners, is securing support for mental-health-first approaches to responding to urgent calls for mental health care, which often intersect with homelessness and substance use.
We’re working in New York City as part of the CCIT-NYC coalition, which is advocating for a new model in New York City. [Read Dr. Vasan’s op-ed in the New York Daily News.] And we’re kicking off our national policy work with Magnolia Clubhouse in Cleveland. [Read Dr. Vasan and Magnolia Clubhouse Director, Lori D'Angelo's op-ed in Cleveland.com.] We’re building out our communications campaigns with Putnam Clubhouse in Contra Costa, Fresh Start Clubhouse in Ann Arbor, San Antonio Clubhouse in San Antonio, and Hero House NW in the Seattle area. We are also working with these jurisdictions to bring them on-line on a rolling basis for policy change.
Do you or your community want to partner with us to ensure mental health needs are addressed more effectively? Email firstname.lastname@example.org and follow the hashtag #CareResponders on Twitter.