BALTIMORE — On Monday, in a virtual roundtable discussion, US Senator Chris Van Hollen and Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott met with several community leaders to talk about how police officers respond to crisis situations.
Senator Van Hollen talked about plans to reintroduce his legislation called the "Community-Based Response Act," which he is hoping to pass along with the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act.
On a zoom call with community leaders, including Mayor Brandon Scott and Baltimore Ceasefire founder, Erricka Bridgeford, US Senator Van Hollen says one out of ten police calls involve a mental health situation, but a larger number -- about half of the calls -- involve someone dealing with a mental health issue and that people with mental health issues are more likely to be killed by police in situations that escalate.
He says police officers are often sent on calls for mental health or substance use disorder crises, check-ins for health and safety, a lack of housing or health care, and emergencies involving populations in need or who have historically faced discrimination.
Van Hollen and many local leaders believe their communities would be better served by having an additional option for a community-based response that would send people trained in mental and behavioral health or crisis response instead of the police.
The Community-Based Response Act would make that possible by establishing a new community-based emergency and non-emergency response grant program through the Department of Health and Human Services.
Last summer, a Baltimore family called 9-1-1 about a family member who was having a mental health crisis. That man was Ricky Walker, Jr. He pulled a gun on police while officers tried talking to him in his basement and was shot and killed.
Whether having a crisis intervention team to call would have still saved Walker's life is unknown, but many people are fighting for that option.