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According to the National Emergency Number Association (NENA), 911 dispatch centers in the US receive an estimated 240 million calls each year. In the traditional dispatch model, all public safety calls are directed to the police. However, an overreliance on police to respond to these types of calls has led to a growing movement calling for alternatives to primary police dispatch.

Law enforcement officers routinely interact with people experiencing mental health crises. When a bystander, family member, friend, or colleague witnesses an individual experiencing a mental health crisis, they generally call 911 rather than a mental health professional. Unfortunately, according to a Washington Post database, police-involved shootings in the US have killed over 5,680 people since January 1, 2015, with 1,359 (23 percent) of those deaths involving a person with a mental health condition.

To better position their officers to address mental health crises, many law enforcement agencies have sought alternatives to arresting or hospitalizing people who need help. In the co-responder model, health care clinicians are paired with law enforcement professionals in cooperation units. The co-responder concept increases first responder efficiency, improves mental health crisis encounters, and builds relationships between law enforcement and their communities.


This guide identifies examples of successful alternative diversion models throughout the country to aid police agencies and community organizations. Since programs are often tailored to meet the requirements of a community, diversion implementations vary greatly. Popular programs include restorative justice, truancy prevention, mental health, law enforcement collaborations with social workers, and mentoring programs. This resource guide contains the following:

  • Examples of social worker and police collaborations: Social services and police agencies work together to address mental health, domestic violence, the needs of victims of assault, and juvenile delinquency.
  • Examples of 911 dispatch diversion programs: 911 initiatives divert calls from citizens experiencing mental health crises and substance abuse issues to trained professionals rather than law enforcement.
  • Summary of best practices: We summarize the best practices that 12 agencies around the country use in their alternative response models.
  • Other useful resources: We offer additional resources for developing and implementing alternative police dispatch models.

Social Worker and Police Collaborations

Given the financial ramifications of the COVID-19 pandemic — lack of revenue, high unemployment, and less flexible funding — many states and municipalities are searching for methods to save money on policing and pretrial imprisonment in the next years. This crisis provides a chance to improve law enforcement training, repair community confidence, and reallocate scarce funds to holistic services. An example is social worker and police collaborations, which enable social service agencies and police agencies to work together to address mental health, domestic violence, the needs.

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  • Document Number: CMM-2022-U-034323-Final
  • Publication Date: 12/15/2022