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We can’t keep considering police as default responders to every emergency

Tyler O'Neill/Adobe Stock

The good news for the many Boston residents who support allocating public safety funding toward mental health-related services is that there are actionable ways to do this (“Wu dominates poll as early voting nears,” Page A1, Oct. 19).

Police are often the first responders to mental health crises even though the best response to a noncriminal emergency, such as a mental health crisis, is de-escalation by trained professionals.

Communities throughout the country, including Lynn, are implementing crisis response models that dispatch social workers and allied professionals to emergencies related to mental health, substance use disorder, or poverty.


State lawmakers are considering An Act to Create Alternatives for Community Emergency Services, or the ACES Act. The measure would ensure that every call to 911 gets the best response by providing funding to communities who want to develop alternatives to police response for some 911 calls.

Police are trained to respond to and investigate criminal acts. The expectation that police are the default responders to every emergency is unrealistic. This expectation is unfair to the public who live with the tragic results of inadequate police responses to mental health crises, and it is especially unfair to people of color, people living with disabilities, and LGBTQIA+ people who disproportionately bear the burden of suffering and loss.

Rebekah Gewirtz

Executive director

Massachusetts chapter

National Association of Social Workers

Phanide Simon-Ulysse

Community affairs cochair

Greater Boston Association of Black Social Workers