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Mental Health Crisis Response

December 2022: Release of Boston's Community-Led Mental Health Crisis Response Model

Since March 2022, 14 community members have been working with The City School and Boston Liberation Health to design a community-led mental health crisis response model for the city of Boston that does not involve law enforcement. 


The City School works to develop and strengthen young people in the city of Boston, particularly young people of color, to become effective leaders for racial and social justice through popular education and organizing. Boston Liberation Health is a collective of mental health providers and service users working to change the institutional and societal factors that negatively impact mental health.


Prior to the city selecting these community members and organizations, Boston-based community organizing groups, including Muslim Justice League, Asian American Resource Workshop, Youth Justice & Power Union, Material Aid and Advocacy Program, Boston Liberation Health and more, along with community members, successfully organized for this community design process and for funding for this process. Now, after 9 months, the Community-Led Design Group has designed a mental health crisis response model that does not involve law enforcement, and has submitted their final report to Mayor Michelle Wu and the city of Boston.


This process started with community building and establishing core values rooted in racial, economic, gender, queer, and disability justice. This was followed by exploring and learning from local and national groups engaging in crisis response work and in work with communities most impacted by the harms of the current police response system, ranging from national groups such as STAR in Denver to local groups such as Cambridge HEART. During a day-long retreat, the team designed an initial draft of the model, followed by facilitating listening sessions with the wider Boston community and local community-based organizations to receive feedback on this first draft. Finally, after incorporating feedback from the listening sessions, the team is excited to have a final report for the city of Boston.


A few key components of this community-led mental health crisis response model:  

  • The model does not involve law enforcement in any phase or capacity, from planning and design to implementation and evaluation. 

  • The model is non-carceral and consent-based.

  • Funding for the model is to be diverted from the city’s law enforcement budget.

  • The model is to be situated in a public city agency, including the guarantee of well-paying positions for response team members, as well as a Community Oversight and Accountability Board with powers to approve final implementation plans. 

  • The model includes community response teams in each neighborhood made up of primarily Black, Indigenous and people of color, and of people with lived experience of mental health challenges, as well as multiple ways to reach the program from diverted 911 and 988 calls to a separate number and text-based app that will be reachable in multiple languages. 


The community-led design team is proud to have developed a model driven by those most impacted by the current police response, that would meet people’s needs instead of criminalizing them.


To read a summary of our proposal, please click here. To read the full report, please click here.

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