Strengthening penalties for assault of some emergency and… | MAMH

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Jun 24, 2021

MAMH President & CEO Danna Mauch testified this month before the Joint Committee of The Judiciary. Her message: there are better, more proactive solutions to keep EMTs, ambulance operators and health care providers safe from assault.

This month, MAMH President & CEO Danna Mauch, testified in a virtual public hearing before the Joint Committee on the Judiciary, urging them to vote no on H.1888/S.926, An Act relative to strengthening the penalty for assault or assault and battery on an emergency medical technician, ambulance operator, ambulance attendant or health care provider.

People in a behavioral health crisis are at a far higher risk of being harmed themselves in the process of being arrested than they are to harm someone else. One in four people killed by police in our country has a serious behavioral health condition, even though only one in 25 adults has such a condition.

“Increasing the criminal penalties for a person in this situation not only will foster further criminalization of people with behavioral health conditions, causing more trauma and distress, but also will fail to deter future assaults.”
MAMH President & CEO Danna Mauch

Our country has spent the past several years reckoning with the effects of a criminal justice system that is ill suited to respond to a behavioral health emergency.

The reality is that police are usually not the right people to deal with these types of crises. When ambulances are dispatched, EMTs - often with minimal training in behavioral health crisis response - are put in a difficult position. And when individuals in a behavioral health crisis arrive at an Emergency Department (ED) for care, it is often against their will, in a restrained capacity and without mental health treatment – sometimes for days.

There are better, more proactive solutions:

These are not just hypothetical solutions. They have been tried, tested, and implemented successfully in many parts of the country. For example, a Georgia program that provides mobile crisis intervention instead of emergency response for behavioral health calls reduced the number of individuals being arrested or restrained and improved care while saving money and resources.

We should not be sending emergency medical services to handle behavioral health crises. Being a first responder is an incredibly difficult job made even more challenging during COVID. If we truly want to protect the women and men who serve this critical role, we need to make investments in 988, mobile crisis intervention, and Restoration Centers - and minimize the need for 911 response in the first place.

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