A Discussion of Recent Efforts to Remove Police from Mental Health Emergency Calls through Litigation, as well As On-Going Legislative and Community Advocacy for Establishment of Peer-Led Crisis Response Systems

Ruth Lowenkron, Esq., and Marinda van Dalen, Esq., of the Disability Justice Program at the New York Lawyers for the Public Interest

In this workshop, the panelists will discuss recent efforts to remove police from mental health emergency calls through litigation, as well as ongoing legislative and community advocacy for the establishment of peer-led crisis response systems.

Ruth Lowenkron and Marinda van Dalen of the Disability Justice Program at New York Lawyers for the Public Interest represent a class of New Yorkers with lived mental health experience challenging New York’s “Emotionally Disturbed Person’s Policy”--a policy that enables police officers to respond to mental health emergencies. Rather than calling for increased training within the existing police-based paradigm, their recent lawsuit, Baerga v. City of New York, calls for the removal of police from these calls and the creation of voluntary, communitybased supports.

Lowenkron and van Dalen will be joined on the panel by one of the organizational plaintiffs involved in the litigation, as well as a peer advocate working to advance non-police, peer-led crisis response in New York City.

This workshop hopes to provide:

  • Insights on legal strategies to limit police involvement in mental health response
  • Ideas for legislative and policy advocacy to transform municipal responses to crises
  • Perspectives on local advocacy for peer-based mental health crisis services