Between November 2019 and February 2020, Vera researchers contacted by email and telephone 17 experts with knowledge about current police–mental health collaboration programs in the United States. These experts were asked to nominate communities that were focused on “novel approaches” to behavioral health crises that attempted to reduce the police response and shift responsibility to behavioral health experts. The request generated nominations for 18 communities. From these 18, the Vera team chose five for informational telephone interviews based on evidence of clear policies, relationships with community members, and the use of novel approaches to crisis response. These interviews focused on program goals, activities, and successes to assist in selecting sites for case study. The Vera team then chose three of the five sites for case study based on whether at least one of their programs was focused specifically on reducing police officer on-scene responses to people in behavioral health crisis and that program had been in operation for at least several months.

Between March 2020 and August 2020, researchers conducted telephone interviews with a total of 22 stakeholders from the three communities. Among the interviewees were representatives from each police agency, including communications personnel, program coordinators, sergeants, and lieutenants; staff from behavioral health organizations, including program coordinators and crisis responders; health insurance payers; three peers; and one public defender. Interview questions addressed program origins and activities, collaboration, funding, data collection, and challenges. The research team analyzed interviews for key themes and then prepared case studies and identified lessons learned.