The Los Angeles Police Department Mental Evaluation Unit (MEU), including the Systemwide Mental Assessment Response Team (SMART), is a component of the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) that works with people suspected of having mental illness. The MEU mission is to reduce the potential for violence during police contacts involving people suffering from mental illness while simultaneously assessing the mental health services available to assist them. This requires a commitment to problem solving, partnership, and supporting a coordinated effort from law enforcement, mental health services and the greater community of Los Angeles.
The LAPD has deployed the MEU for over four decades to help uniformed field personnel manage mental health crisis issues. In January 1993, the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health (LACDMH) and the LAPD enhanced the MEU operation by committing personnel and resources to staff the Systemwide Mental Assessment Response Team (SMART) within the City of Los Angeles. These co-deployed field response units formed the basis of the initial 1993 Mental Illness Project.
The Mental Illness Project is a co-response model. This means that police officers and mental health clinicians are housed out of the same building and respond to calls as a team. As a specialized mental health-law enforcement response unit, the greatest challenge was to take professionals from diverging disciplines working towards similar goals and develop them as a team. This was accomplished by developing the relationship and buy-in of each of the team members. Special attention was given to familiarization and cross training of roles and responsibilities each team member is responsible for when responding to calls for service involving persons suffering from a mental health crisis. It is this unique development of the team that allows the officers to think like a mental health clinician and a mental health clinician to understand the role of law enforcement. Ultimately, this has developed into a holistic approach to managing calls for service involving persons suffering from a mental illness and or a mental health crisis. Officers and clinicians develop management schemes which employ an array of options from referrals for service, hospitalization and or management of the subject within the jail system. The co-response/co-deployment model is integrated into all facets of the LAPD mental illness response strategy.
In 2005, the Case Assessment Management Program (CAMP) was added to the MEU and the Mental Illness Project as a specialized mental illness investigative follow-up team. Staffed by sworn investigators and LACDMH clinicians, its primary function is to identify those persons suffering from a mental illness, who are recidivist high utilizers of emergency services (make frequent use of police and fire emergency services) and/or who are at risk for violent encounters with police officers, e.g. Target School Violence, Suicide Jumpers, and Suicide by Cop (SbC).
In April 2008, the Los Angeles Police Department Threat Management Unit (LAPD TMU) teamed up to co-deploy with the MEU due to the fact that stalking suspects often suffer from some form of mental instability, and workplace violence suspects experience some form of mental health crisis when they make threats and when they are engaging in acts of violence. Both the MEU and TMU comprise the Crisis Response Support Section (CRSS).
Further insight relative to the MEU can be found within the following governmental publications:
- A Guide to Implementing Police-Based Diversion Programs for People with Mental Illness, by Melissa Reuland, Police Executive Research Forum – 2004
- Enhancing Success of Police-Based Diversion Programs for People with Mental Illness, by Melissa Reuland and Jason Cheney, Police Executive Research Forum – May 2005
- Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Assistance, Improving Responses to People with Mental Illnesses, Strategies for Effective Law Enforcement Training 2008.
- Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Assistance, Improving Responses to People with Mental Illnesses, The Essential Elements of a Specialized Law Enforcement–Based Program, 2008.
- Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Assistance, Law Enforcement Responses to People with Mental Illness, A Guide to Research-Informed Policy and Practice, 2009.
- Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Assistance, Improving Responses to People with Mental Illnesses, Tailoring Law Enforcement Initiatives to Individual Jurisdictions, 2010.
- Consent Decree Mental illness Reports.
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