The Center for Health and Justice Research at the IU Public Policy Institute is working with the City of Indianapolis to take an in-depth look at the impact of the city’s Mobile Crisis Assistance Teams and Behavioral Health Unit through a new randomized control trial.
The MCAT-BHU program pairs a police officer with a mental health professional to create a co-response team for calls involving individuals with suspected mental health or substance use disorders. The co-response model aims to improve outcomes for those individuals and divert them away from the criminal justice system.
CHJR researchers previously looked at the city’s MCAT implementation process in IMPD’s East District during its pilot program in 2017. The study found that co-response models can increase access to community-based treatment and services, while reducing the burden on police officers. The new year-long study, which began on Feb. 1, 2019, will focus on a different IMPD district with new MCAT-BHU members.
“In the first study, we wanted to see if a co-response model was feasible and how to best implement it,” said Katie Bailey, the research project manager for CHJR. “Now, we’re turning our attention to whether the model works and how it compares to treatment as usual.”
Bailey, Brad Ray, Eric Grommon, and Evan Lowder will team up on this latest study to determine which calls for service were relevant for co-response and how the program impacts emergency medical services, arrest rates, treatment engagement, response time, and hospitalizations. The team also will collect follow-up data one year after the initial police run to examine the costs of the co-response, engagement with the criminal justice system, and treatment delivery.
“While there is growing evidence on co-response models like MCAT-BHU, we need to take a more rigorous look at the impact of these programs,” said Ray, who is director at CHJR. “This new project will help us better understand the most effective methods for diverting people with substance use and mental health disorders into the treatment they truly need, while providing insight into what happens to those people following police encounters.”
The new project is funded through a $442,831 grant from Arnold Ventures, a philanthropy that focuses on funding research on health, criminal justice, public finance, and education reforms.