Legislation To Support Community Responder Models

paramedic tending to patient

Legislation To Support Community Responder Models

One way that states and local governments are supporting the development of community responder programs is through legislation and executive orders. State and local legislation, for example, can establish community responder programs with initial funding and make changes to the ways that local crisis services function to ensure that community responder programs are effectively embedded in the crisis system. Legislation and executive orders can also help ensure local governments and community organizations are provided with the key resources to get a program off the ground and act as a stable funding stream to ensure its long-term sustainability.

Ways to Advance Legislation

1. Identify legislative champions

Community members can serve as champions of community responder programs by helping voice the need for such a program to elected officials, but ultimately, programs will need legislative champions to introduce and move any bill forward. Read More…

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When identifying legislative champions, community stakeholder groups should consider people who are already driving conversations about ways to reimagine public safety and the need for community responder programs in their neighborhoods. Once identified, programs should work with these champions to introduce the bill, create strategies for how and when to involve other stakeholders, and develop a plan to respond to any opposition.

2. Determine key elements of legislation

Looking at examples of legislation from other states or local communities can be helpful in thinking through opportunities in a given jurisdiction and whether it makes sense to pursue a legislative strategy. Read More…

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When developing a legislative strategy, it is important to determine the goals of the legislation, such as developing a pilot program, funding a responder program, creating a community stakeholder group to identify next steps, or starting a systems strategy.

3. Engage the community to support legislation

Effective engagement with members of the community is critical for gaining support for any legislative proposal, as well as for creating transparency and accountability in decisions, such as the scope of the legislation being proposed. Read More…

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When creating legislation for the community responder program, it is important to ensure that it address specific local needs, whether those are mental health, suicidality, substance use, drug overdoses, homelessness, or other poverty-related issues. Community members should also have opportunities to give meaningful feedback on what would work best for their jurisdiction, which could include town hall meetings, focus groups, or other avenues for public engagement. It is also important to garner support from behavioral health providers, law enforcement, and the different public safety systems in the community, as legislation will not typically move forward without their buy-in.


Many communities are reimagining their approach to public safety by investing in community responder programs that position health professionals and community members trained in crisis response as first responders. As local governments work to establish and maintain these programs, one strategy they can consider is passing local legislation that offers dedicated funding and support.

Community responder programs are gaining popularity across the country. These programs, which position health professionals and staff trained in crisis response as first responders, are often used to de-escalate behavioral health crises or respond to social disturbances. While they are typically formed at the county or local level, state-level actions, such as legislation and executive orders, can be useful tools to jumpstart community responder programs. Here are three ways that state leaders can support such programs.