Strengthening connections among criminal justice agencies, behavioral health organizations, and the community to improve wellbeing for people with mental health conditions or co-occurring substance use disorders.

Law Enforcement

Law enforcement officers are often the first, and frequently the only, responders to emergency and non-emergency calls involving people with behavioral health needs. These calls can be complex and challenging to resolve, with disproportionately tragic outcomes. And in many communities, law enforcement officers have neither adequate training, nor the appropriate resources, to effectively respond to people in crisis. Further, many officers have too few options of where to take someone in crisis other than jail or the emergency department.

To respond to these challenges, and with the support of JMHCP, many law enforcement agencies have begun to partner with their behavioral health providers to build collaborative responses that provide alternatives to arrest, increase connections to resources, reduce repeat encounters, and minimize use of force in encounters with people with mental health needs.


Law Enforcement Mental Health Learning Sites


Collaboration Spotlight

Gordon Ramsay

We want officers to have resources that they need to effectively respond to people in crisis, which is why our department has partnered with local homeless and health systems to build out community services, increasing the chances of success for the people we encounter most frequently and reducing the burden on our officers.

Former Chief Gordon Ramsay, Wichita, KS, Police Department

Selected resources

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Key Staff

Ethan Aaronson

Ethan Aaronson

Senior Policy Analyst, Behavioral Health

[email protected]

Ethan Aaronson provides technical assistance to Justice and Mental Health Collaboration Program grantees and Law Enforcement-Mental Health Learning Sites. Prior to joining the CSG Justice Center, Ethan worked at the Walter Rand Institute for Public Affairs, where he assessed how well local governments met the human service needs of residents. He also was the data manager for a project that supported individuals with co-occurring diagnoses in reentry. Previously, he was a counselor in New Jersey and Oregon, helping young men prepare for their return home after completing probation or parole. Ethan earned BAs in political science and history from the University of Vermont and his MA in criminal justice from Rutgers University.

Joseph W. Arnett

Joseph W. Arnett

Policy Analyst, Behavioral Health

Joseph W. Arnett provides policy recommendations, training, and technical assistance, working with a wide range of stakeholders in local governments, law enforcement, criminal justice, and behavioral health fields to improve police-mental health collaborations. Previously, Joseph worked for the Alcohol, Drug Addiction, and Mental Health Services Board in Cleveland, Ohio. His role included the planning, implementation, and oversight of behavioral health programs for adults involved in the criminal justice system. Joseph was also previously a probation officer, supervising a mental health/developmental disability caseload, completing pre-sentence investigations, and working with clients to determine risk levels and needs. Joseph has an MS in criminal justice and a BS in substance abuse counseling from the University of Cincinnati.

Deirdra Assey

Deirdra Assey

Senior Policy Analyst, Behavioral Health

[email protected]

Deirdra Assey provides technical assistance to programs planning and implementing criminal justice and mental health collaborations; she also works on projects under the CSG Justice Center’s courts portfolio. Prior to joining the organization, Deirdra worked for Hudson County’s Screening Center at Jersey City Medical Center, where she was a civil commitment evaluator. She also worked with the Hudson County Crisis Intervention Team and has trained with various local law enforcement agencies. Deirdra received her BA and MA in forensic psychology from John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

Ernest Stevens

Ernest Stevens

Deputy Division Director, Behavioral Health

Ernest Stevens oversees the portfolio of work focused on improving outcomes for people experiencing behavioral health conditions and homelessness who encounter law enforcement. Ernest supports communities in adopting, implementing, and evaluating new practices. Previously, Ernest spent over 28 years in law enforcement helping develop new programs and policies for the San Antonio Police Department. He also worked as a program manager for the Southwest Texas Regional Advisory Council that oversees emergency operations for 22 counties in Texas. Ernest was featured in the Emmy Award–winning documentary Ernie and Joe: Crisis Cops. Ernest also wrote Mental Health and De-Escalation: A Guide for Law Enforcement Professionals. He earned his BS in criminal justice from Wayland Baptist University.

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