Police use crisis intervention team to respond to the mentally ill

According to the Treatment Advocacy Center, people with untreated severe mental illness are 16 times more likely to be killed during an encounter with law enforcement than other civilians. Police departments across the country use crisis intervention teams to intercede with the mentally ill, but one department in Anne Arundel County, Maryland, has been singled out for its success. CBS News' Debra Alfarone reports.

Video Transcript

- Thousands of police departments across the country use crisis intervention teams to help officers respond to calls involving the mentally ill. "CBS News'" Debra Alfarone is in Maryland where she spoke with one police department recently named, The Best in the World.

- Do you feel like she is a danger to herself or others right now?

DEBRA ALFARONE: 24 hours a day--

- Get a protective order.

DEBRA ALFARONE: --mental health clinicians answer what's called a warm line inside the Anne Arundel County Police Department in Maryland.

JEN CORBIN: Instead of using the word "hotline," we use the word "warm line" so that anybody can call.

DEBRA ALFARONE: Voted the number one crisis intervention team in the world, this department says it's putting mental health first.

STEVE THOMAS: How can we be helpful to them at that moment while they're in crisis?

Just the one from the other day.


DEBRA ALFARONE: Lieutenant Steve Thomas heads up the police side of the unit, Jen Corbin heads up the mental health side.

STEVE THOMAS: Officers on patrol can call in for a mobile crisis team. It's their discretion. Anything that's not a traditional crime. It could be homelessness, it could be someone in crisis, it could be a traditional mental health issue.

- [INAUDIBLE] radio.


DEBRA ALFARONE: Lieutenant Thomas says this approach has led to less crime and fewer arrests.

STEVE THOMAS: You're given an option other than arrest. Plus, it's actually addressing a problem far upstream.

DEBRA ALFARONE: Do you think that this unit saved your life?

SAMUEL MASON: Yeah. Yeah, I know it did. 'Cause like I said, if I had probably been there a couple of times, and like I said, if not by my hand, then by somebody else's hand.

DEBRA ALFARONE: Samuel Mason says, he'd been arrested more than 50 times.

SAMUEL MASON: I had an issue. I'm schizophrenic. And I thought people were after me.

DEBRA ALFARONE: Then he encountered the crisis intervention team.

SAMUEL MASON: Since I met them, I think I have got in trouble one time when I was off my meds. And I ain't been in trouble like a couple of years now.

JEN CORBIN: Right now our community needs someone that they can call when they don't have confidence in the police. And our job right now here, Steve and I's job, is to get them to have faith in police again.

DEBRA ALFARONE: Answering the call for a crisis of confidence, too.

- No problem.

DEBRA ALFARONE: Deborah Alfarone, "CBS News," Anne Arundel County, Maryland.