Trending Topics

Calif. poll: Voters believe law enforcement the least equipped to respond to mental health calls

Calif. voters want behavioral health professionals to respond to non-life-threatening 911 calls


Getty Images

By Bill Carey
EMS1 Staff

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — A statewide poll conducted by a public advocacy group shows that 88% of registered California voters want significant changes to how police and other emergency services providers respond to mental health crises and other 911 calls.

The findings from the Public Health Advocates poll showed that 69% of voters who participated said they want behavioral health professionals to respond either with (35%) or without (34%) law enforcement to non-life-threatening situations. Only 19% want law enforcement to receive additional training to respond more effectively. The poll was developed in partnership with researchers at UC Berkeley and UC Davis.

The amount of respondents who wanted 911 services to remain unchanged was 12%.

In situations that are most commonly in need of emergency response services, the poll showed that 67% believe law enforcement is the least equipped to respond to calls about mental health crises and 49% believed the same for calls about people who are homeless.

[READ: Findings and Regional Data]

“California voters throughout the state and across all demographic groups see today’s emergency response system as outdated and in need of a more diverse set of responders,” Dr. Harold Goldstein, executive director of Public Health Advocates stated. “The system is old and needs updating.”

These results come during a growing nationwide concern about police responding to mental health crises and other non-life-threatening situations. Law enforcement leaders in cities such as Los Angeles have begun to call for new response systems that rely less on law enforcement and more on specialized services.