WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) joined a bipartisan group of senators this week to introducing the Law Enforcement De-escalation Training Act. The legislation, which was authored by U.S. Senators John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) will help law enforcement respond more effectively to people suffering mental or behavioral health crises. Specifically, the bill would improve training for police officers interacting with individuals dealing with mental or behavior health issues, including using alternatives to force and de-escalation tactics and working with mental health professionals on crisis intervention teams. It would also empower police and the mental health professionals working with them to link individuals to mental and behavioral health services in their community. 

“Our law enforcement officers are willing to put their lives on the line every day, and we owe them a great debt of gratitude,” Senator Capito said.  “I’m proud to join my colleagues in introducing this legislation, which will help provide critical resources to make our communities safer by better preparing officers to help those experiencing mental health emergencies.  It’s critical that we do all we can to support our brave law enforcement officers and provide support to vulnerable members of our communities in times of crisis, and this commonsense legislation will do just that.”


Underfunded and overworked mental and behavioral health systems often leave police to confront people who urgently need mental or behavioral health care. However, many police departments don’t train officers on how to deal with such situations, leading to encounters that are dangerous for all involved. 

In response, a growing number of communities have developed community intervention programs to help law enforcement address mental or behavioral health crises. These programs connect officers on the street with mental and behavioral health providers and hospital emergency services. 

In addition to protecting officers and communities, these programs reduce arrests and prison time for people in need of mental or behavioral health treatment. This is better for the individual facing mental or behavioral health challenges, and can save governments on prison costs. As the National Alliance on Mental Illness has observed, an inmate in Detroit battling mental illness costs $31,000 a year in jail, while mental health treatment costs only $10,000 a year in the community.

At minimum, all police officers should be equipped with the skills to respond to people with mental or behavioral health issues safely and with compassion. 

To improve officer training on mental and behavioral health, and to promote community intervention programs, the Law Enforcement De-escalation Training Act would: 

  • Require the U.S. Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Office of Community Oriented Policing Services to developing curricula in the training topics, or identifying existing curricula, in consultation with law enforcement, mental health organizations, family advocacy organizations, and civil liberties groups, among other stakeholders;
  • Authorize $70 million in annual grant funding for training, including scenario-based exercises and evaluative assessments;
  • Require the National Institute of Justice and the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to evaluate the implementation of the program and the effect of the training, to ensure that the curricula have a tangible impact on law enforcement encounters with people in crisis, and identify possible changes that would further improve outcomes.

The bill is endorsed by the National Criminal Justice Association, National Association of Counties, American Psychological Association, National Alliance on Mental Illness, American Counseling Association, National Register of Health Service Psychologists, American Association of Suicidology, Major Cities Chiefs Association, Major County Sheriffs of America, National Association of Police Organizations, National Sheriffs’ Association, the Fraternal Order of Police, the College of Psychiatric and Neurologic Pharmacists, the American Association on Health and Disability, the Lakeshore Foundation, the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, the American Association for Psychoanalysis in Clinical Social Work, the Maternal Mental Health Leadership Alliance, the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners, the National Association of County Behavioral Health and Developmental Disability Directors, the National Association for Rural Mental Health, and the Niskanen Center.

Full text of the legislation is available here. 

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