Law Enforcement Response to Persons with Mental Illness

Law Enforcement Response to Persons with Mental Illness 

Dr. Torrey from the Treatment Advocacy Center in Arlington, VA stated in an article in the New York Times that police officers have become “the first line of contact” for individuals with mental illness. Law enforcement agencies across the country are seeing increases in the number of contacts between individuals with a mental health disorder and police. Today, more than 90,000 inmates with serious mental illness await a psychiatric hospital bed and 10 times more individuals with serious mental illness are residing in state prisons and county jails today than in the nation’s remaining state mental hospitals, according to a new study from the Treatment Advocacy Center and the National Sheriffs' Association. As a police officer, you are trained to react to how people respond when you approach or interact with them. However, particularly when you are approaching and interacting with people who may have a mental health disorder, it is important for you to be proactive in your response. When you are proactive rather than reactive, you can avoid escalating the situation and are more likely to have a positive outcome. This course highlights the verbal, environmental, and behavioral cues that can help you quickly assess whether you may be dealing with an individual with a mental health disorder. In addition, you will learn about tactical response strategies you can use to safely respond and resolve situations involving individuals with a mental health disorder. Information provided is broad-based and should always be considered in relation to your agency’s policies and procedures. DSM™ and DSM-5™ are registered trademarks of the American Psychiatric Association. The American Psychiatric Association is not affiliated with nor endorses this course.


Hours: 1.25


Certificates provided by accrediting body (4 Match)

Pennsylvania Municipal Police Officers’ Education & Training Commission

1.25 HOURS

This activity is approved for 1.25 contact hours.

Indiana Law Enforcement Academy

1.25 HOURS

This activity is approved for 1.25 contact hours.

Oklahoma Council on Law Enforcement Education and Training

1.25 HOURS

This class has been accredited by the Council on Law Enforcement Education and Training for 1.25 hours of mandatory continuing education credit. Regarding any law enforcement concepts, practices, methods, techniques, products, or devices as might be taught, promoted, or otherwise espoused in outside schools or seminars, there is no intent, expressed or implied, that ‘accreditation’ indicates or in any way conveys ‘CLEET approval’ of such concepts, practices, methods, techniques, products, or devices, unless such approval is explicitly stated by CLEET.

Minnesota Board of Peace Officer Standards and Training

1.25 HOURS

Relias Learning is a continuing education sponsor as approved by the Board of Peace Officer Standards and Training. This course Law Enforcement Response to Persons with Mental Illness, 10397-0214 has been approved by the POST Board for continuing education credit. Peace officers who successfully complete this course will receive 1.25 hours of continuing education.

The sponsor of this course has a written policy for the investigation and resolution of allegations of classroom discrimination. This policy applies to all faculty, instructors, administrative staff, and students. A copy of the policy may be obtained from the sponsor by contacting Relias Support by phone at 1-800-381-2321.

Course Details

Course Code: REL-PS-0-LERPMI
Hours: 1.25
Type: Online Course
Content Expiration Date: 9/30/2023
Learning Objectives:
Define mental Illness
Recognize more than 20 verbal, environmental, and behavioral cues of mental illness.
List the 4 common types of mental health disorders most often encountered by law enforcement officers.
Identify 8 considerations for assessing the dangerousness of a situation that involves an individual with mental health disorder.
Recognize more than 20 possible response strategies you can use when responding to a call involving a person with a mental health disorder.

Section 1: Introduction A. About This Course B. Learning Objectives C. The Issue D. Choices and Consequences E. Meet Rick F. Assess Your Knowledge G. Section Summary Section 2: Recognizing Cues of Mental Illness A. Verbal, Environmental, and Behavioral Cues B. Cues for Common Disorders C. Assess Your Knowledge D. Section Summary Section 3: Basic Response Strategies A. Responding on Scene B. Assessment C. Containment D. Coordination E. Communication F. Time G. Safe Transport Strategies H. Reporting I. Assess Your Knowledge J. Section Summary Section 4: Conclusion A. Summary B. Course Contributors C. Resources D. References E. Congratulations!

Staff Writer: Kimberly Cobb, MS
Mrs. Cobb is a Lead SME Writer/Trainer at Relias. Her primary writing responsibilities are in the Health and Human Services vertical, in the content areas of public safety and behavioral health. Mrs. Cobb is also the onboarding trainer for new Relias staff joining the Content Department. Mrs. Cobb has a Bachelor of Science Degree in Correctional and Juvenile Justice Studies and a Master of Science Degree in Criminal Justice. She has over 24 years of experience working in criminal and juvenile justice. Her work includes direct service, research, and training and technical assistance. She was the statewide evaluator for the Commonwealth of Kentucky for adult, juvenile, and family drug courts; a Research Associate for the American Probation & Parole Association providing training and technical assistance to Native American Nations/Alaska Native Villages on systemic criminal and juvenile justice initiatives; and a Research Administrator for the University of Kentucky. Disclosure: Kimberly Cobb, MS has declared that no conflict of interest, Relevant Financial Relationship or Relevant Non-Financial Relationship exists.
Expert Reviewer: Naju Madra, M.A.

Naju Madra, M.A. is an internal subject matter expert and clinical content writer for Relias' Behavioral Healthcare library. She earned her Master's degree in Psychology with specific study in neuropsychological assessment for children with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders. She brings with her a wealth of experience in clinical assessment, along with expertise in large-scale clinical research project management, recruitment, training, as well as in-person and web-based curriculum development.

In addition to scholarly activities such as writing manuals and preparing manuscripts for peer-reviewed journals, Ms. Madra has over 15 years of behavioral healthcare experience ranging from crisis counseling and job coaching for individuals with severe mental illness and co-occurring disorders, to community college instruction, and trauma specialist at the Veterans Health Administration. In her current role, Ms. Madra has contributed authorship to over 100 behavioral healthcare course offerings for both licensed and non-licensed professionals in the Health & Human Services market.

Disclosure: Naju Madra, M.A. has declared that no conflict of interest, Relevant Financial Relationship or Relevant Non-Financial Relationship exists.
Target Audience:
The target audience for this course is: Entry level Law Enforcement; in the following settings: Law Enforcement.
Relias will be transparent in disclosing if any commercial support, sponsorship or co-providership is present prior to the learner completing the course.
Course Delivery Method and Format
Asynchronous/Online Distance Learning; please see certificate details for specifics on delivery format.
Relias has a grievance policy in place to facilitate reports of dissatisfaction. Relias will make every effort to resolve each grievance in a mutually satisfactory manner. In order to report a complaint or grievance please contact Relias.
If you require special accommodations to complete this module, please contact Relias Support by completing the web form ( or by using the chat functionality.
All courses offered by Relias, LLC are developed from a foundation of diversity, inclusiveness, and a multicultural perspective. Knowledge, values and awareness related to cultural competency are infused throughout the course content.
Reference herein to any specific commercial product, process, or service by trade name, trademark, service mark, manufacturer or otherwise does not constitute or imply any endorsement, recommendation, or favoring of, or affiliation with, Relias, LLC.
All characteristics and organizations referenced in the following training are fictional. Any resemblance to any actual organizations or persons living or dead, is purely coincidental.
To earn continuing education credit for this course you must achieve a passing score of 80% on the post-test and complete the course evaluation.
If you require special accommodations to complete this module, please contact Relias Customer Support here.