The Los Angeles Police Department’s Mental Evaluation Unit’s Mental Illness Project is selected as a Bright Ideas Recipient

March 31, 2011

Los Angeles:  On March 29, 2011, the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, recognized 36 government initiatives as Bright Ideas recipients.

This cohort of Bright Ideas addresses a host of pertinent issues including health care, education, performance management, civic engagement, and service delivery, and represents the creative and innovative programming of school districts, county, city, state, and federal agencies, as well as public-private partnerships. The programs were selected by an evaluation team of policy experts comprised of both academics and practitioners.

“Government is struggling to deliver quality services with strapped resources and diminishing budgets,” said Anthony Saich, director of the Ash Center. “These 36 government programs demonstrate that creative solutions to some of our nation’s most intractable problems can be generated and succeed in even in the most challenging of environments.”

The Mental Illness Project is a co-response model, utilizing specially trained Los Angeles Police Officers and Clinicians from the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health, who manage incidents involving persons suffering from a mental health crisis. The goal is to minimize violent encounters with law enforcement and to provide a safe and humane treatment for the most vulnerable members of our society.  The Mental Evaluation Unit (MEU) consists of the Triage Desk, the Systemwide Mental Assessment Response Team (SMART), the Case Assessment Management Program (CAMP), and the MEU Training Unit.

As a specialized mental health- law enforcement response unit, the greatest challenge was to take professionals from diverging disciplines working towards similar goals and develop them as a team.  It is this unique development of the team that allows the officers to think like a mental health clinician and a mental health clinician to understand the role of law enforcement.  Ultimately, this has developed into a holistic approach to managing calls for service involving persons suffering from a mental illness and/or a mental health crisis.  Officers and clinicians develop management schemes which employ an array of options from referrals for service, hospitalization and or management of the subject within the jail system.Its recent selection by the Council of State Governments Justice Center, and Bureau of Justice Assistance as one of six Specialized Policing Responses: Law Enforcement/Mental Health national learning sites coupled with the Bright Ideas Award, supports the MEU strategy as being among the national models and leaders in the development of a humane law enforcement response to persons with mental illness. Information regarding the Bright Ideas Award can be obtained by contacting Lieutenant Lionel M. Garcia, LAPD, Mental Illness Project Coordinator at 213-996-1300. Additional information about the learning sites project is available on the project’s website at