Developing Policies and Procedures to Guide Information Sharing

Clearly written policies and procedures are critical to equipping officers with the knowledge and skills needed to respond to people in mental health crisis. These policies and procedures should be widely disseminated and articulate the purpose of information sharing, define frequently used terms, outline roles and responsibilities, and delineate who has access to protected health information. They should also set guidelines on what can and should be shared among law enforcement, behavioral health, and other health staff during a crisis and can inform key decisions related to 911 dispatch and triage, diversion options, connections to services, and follow-up or discharge planning. When writing these policies and procedures, law enforcement leaders should ensure that their behavioral health and community partners are included in the decision-making process; that perspectives from people who have mental illnesses are considered; and that the policies align with the agency’s and community’s needs and are culturally responsive. Additionally, someone or a committee should be charged with tracking changes to privacy law and determining when or if existing policies and training need to be updated.

The following policies and procedures have been created by jurisdictions across the country to support their information-sharing efforts. These resources can serve as templates for any community seeking to begin or strengthen their efforts.