Survey shows need for “care response” for Clevelanders experiencing crises
Posted October 24, 2022 in Press Releases
Today, Policy Matters Ohio and REACH NEO released findings from a survey of Clevelanders directly impacted by policing and emergency response. The survey paints a complex picture of what happens when first responders show up on emergency calls for people in crisis, including those experiencing mental and behavioral health issues, homelessness, substance use and withdrawal.
“This survey confirms that people in crisis most need compassion and care,” said Piet van Lier, senior researcher at Policy Matters and report co-author. “These results support efforts in Cleveland to establish non-police care response, an approach that provides trained, trauma-informed support, not an armed officer in a bulletproof vest.”
Nearly half of survey participants said their interactions with first responders over the past year have been positive, with 30% reporting them as negative and the rest neutral. Participant responses to open-ended questions suggest new approaches can better help people experiencing crisis.
“Residents are begging for more resources for health crises, including those related to mental health or substance use,” said Elaine Schleiffer, co-founder of REACH NEO. “A new care response program can only be successful if it is designed to respond to and resolve the needs of our community, and this survey has given marching orders to all of us who are working toward improved crisis response outcomes.”
Policy Matters and REACH (Responding with Empathy, Access and Community Healing) worked with members of NEOCH’s Homeless Congress to interview 177 people, many of whom have struggled with housing insecurity.
Survey participant responses to open-ended questions about emergency response
- “First I dealt with the police. They treated me like I was crazy and they were aggressive. Then they called the EMS. They were nicer, but they acted like I didn't know what I was talking about. I can't say that I felt safe or unsafe. I felt like nobody was listening to me. It was like I wasn't even a real person.”
- “I slipped and fell on the ice and fractured my bone. The firefighter showed up first followed by the police and then the EMS. They were all polite and professional. They were very concerned about me. That made me feel very safe. They had the medical supplies they needed and was very helpful.”
- “It depends on the situation. If I’m hurt, the EMS will make me feel safe. If my house is on fire, the fire department will make me feel safe. If my uncle was hallucinating, medical professionals and the crisis unit would make me feel safe. If the police showed up for me or my uncle, I would not feel safe because I don’t trust the police. If they did show up, I would hope that they would help me without being rude or judgmental and help my uncle without wanting to hurt or kill him.”
- “Any first responder who is respectful, because if I feel respected I will cooperate with them.”