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Integrated Law Enforcement and Mental Health Responses in Tucson: An Impact and Cost Benefit Analysis

Award Information

Award #
Funding Category
Competitive Discretionary
Congressional District
Funding First Awarded
Total funding (to date)

Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2022, $999,345)

This research project is a partnership between the Center for Criminal Justice Research at MDRC and Dr. Margie Balfour, a psychiatrist and national leader in crisis care and law enforcement responses to behavioral health emergencies who is affiliated with the University of Arizona and the Pima County Crisis Response Center. The research responds to a growing consensus regarding the need to strengthen the evidence base for the early diversion of individuals with mental illness away from the justice system toward community-based treatment. Specifically, it seeks to fill a gap in the evaluation literature regarding pre-arrest mental health diversion via 911 dispatch diversion. For the past decade Pima County has been home to a robust crisis-response continuum that includes a crisis line, mobile crisis teams, and a Crisis Response Center that serves as a law enforcement receiving facility. While this continuum of care serves all of Pima County, the greatest concentration of resources lies in the City of Tucson, which also hosts a 911 dispatch diversion program (focused on acute response) and a peer co-responder model (focused on follow-up).  

With the translation of Tucson’s model to a national audience in mind, MDRC will conduct a quasi-experimental impact evaluation of the integration of crisis line staff into the Tucson 911 call center when compared to a traditional 911 Public Safety Answering Point (“PSAP”) serving unincorporated areas of Pima County just outside the city limits. In addition, the study will include a benefit-cost analysis and a focused process evaluation of how the 911 dispatch diversion and co-responder models have influenced law enforcement responses to mental health crises across the County.  

This research seeks to gain a nuanced understanding of the shift from a punitive toward a diversionary response to mental health crises in Pima County, including its impact on individuals involved in the system and the law enforcement and treatment agencies that serve them. It is being conducted with the support and collaboration of the Tucson Police Department, the Pima County Sherriff’s Office, Arizona Connections Health Solutions, and the Pima County Crisis Center.

Note: This project contains a research and/or development component, as defined in applicable law," and complies with Part 200 Uniform Requirements - 2 CFR  200.210(a)(14). CA/NCF

Date Created: September 27, 2022