Obama praises programs that stopped sending police to most mental health crises

President Obama and Vice President Biden
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Former President Obama tweeted his support Monday for programs that provide a non-law enforcement response to Americans experiencing mental health crises.

In a pair of tweets, the former president wrote that the programs were a “promising development” following 2020’s summer of protests in response to the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and other Black Americans killed by police.

Though Floyd’s and Taylor’s deaths weren’t related to mental health checks, the protests inspired a wider debate about policing in American, including whether police should be the ones responding to mental health crises.

“More places are experimenting with programs that send civilian responders instead of police to help people experiencing mental health crises. It’s a promising development in law enforcement in the wake of this summer’s protests,” Obama wrote.

Obama linked to a USA Today story highlighting several cities that have launched or are piloting programs that send mental health counselors rather than police officers to conduct mental health checks, including Eugene, Ore.; Olympia, Wash.; and and Denver.

The story noted a 2016 study published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine that estimated as many as half of fatal encounters with police involve someone with a mental illness. And a Washington Post database of fatal shootings by on-duty officers shows that about 25 percent of people fatally shot by police since 2015 had a mental illness.

An armed man in Salem, Ore., was killed by police over the weekend after firefighters responded to a reported mental health crisis and were allegedly threatened by the man.

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