Fountain House today released the following statement from President and CEO, Ashwin Vasan, MD, PhD, regarding recent police violence involving individuals with mental illness:
Friday, September 4, 2020 - The violent and tragic death of Daniel Prude in Rochester, New York, which occurred in March but was just publicly documented with the release of police body cam footage, is a painful reminder of what can happen when police respond to calls involving people with mental illness. Nearly one in four police shootings involve someone with mental illness and Black people are three times more likely to be killed by the police than white people in these encounters. Without exception, this is wholly intolerable.
This incident comes alongside a growing recognition that mental health professionals, not law enforcement, must be first responders to mental health emergencies. This is not a new idea and proven models that pair a crisis worker or peer with a medic have been replicated across the country. Instead of law enforcement responding, trained medical and mental health professionals or people with a lived mental health experience arrive to offer crisis counseling, conflict resolution, and welfare checks. It’s an approach that has saved lives and money.
This country has far too many resources to continue to use the wrong ones to support communities with mental illness. Fountain House is committed to partnering with law enforcement, health professionals, social workers, and other first responders to successfully implement new programs to respond to crises involving mental illness. If we are to restore the human dignity ripped from our communities, we must reimagine the role of law enforcement and invest in proven alternatives now.