After a Shooting Death, How to Protect the Mentally Ill — and the Police

Mental Health advocates and clinicians say they know that police are being asked to handle situations that should be handled by a broken mental health system. And some are experimenting with ways to protect everyone involved from being harmed.

One strategy is to have patients fill out documents, similar to do-not-resuscitate-orders, that describe how they should be approached when they’ve lost the ability to think rationally.

“They use past experience to say, ‘You know, when I’m acting in this way that seems bizarre or assaultive or impaired, this is what catches my attention, this is what helps me listen,’” said Dr. Paula Panzer, chief clinical and medical officer at the Jewish Board of Family and Children Services, which runs dozens of clinics across the city. “And that can be turned over to the helper, including the police when they are called,” Panzer said.

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