Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Social Work


School of Social Work

First Reader/Committee Chair

Joseph, Rigaud


There has been an increase in contacts between law enforcement and people with mental illness since the start of deinstitutionalization in the 1960s. When law enforcement officers respond to crisis calls without the proper training, the likelihood of that interaction ending fatally is far greater. The purpose of this study is to determine mental health professionals' readiness to serve as an alternative to law enforcement in addressing mental health crises in rural areas. Using the nonprobability sampling methods of convenience and snowball, this exploratory qualitative study involved semi- structured interviews with 10 adult mental health professionals from various backgrounds in a rural county in California (N = 10). The interview data were analyzed through thematic analysis procedures. Findings reveal the following four themes: (1) mental health professionals support collaboration with law enforcement in responding to mental health crises; (2) despite supporting collaboration with law enforcement, mental health professionals see challenges associated with this partnership; (3) responding to mental health crises without law enforcement is recommended /advisable under certain conditions; and (4) there are benefits associated with responding to mental health crises without law enforcement. Implications of these findings for social work research and practice are provided.

Included in

Social Work Commons