Democrats push bill replacing police with ‘mental health professionals’ in emergencies involving mentally ill

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House Democrats are aiming to hold a floor vote Friday on a bill that would provide states funding to replace law enforcement with mental health professionals.

The Mental Health Justice Act would provide grants to states to hire, employ, train and dispatch mental health professionals “in lieu of law enforcement officers” during emergency calls involving at least one person with a mental illness, according to the bill’s text. The legislation was reintroduced last year by Rep. Katie Porter, D-Calif., who said it would reduce violence against people with mental illnesses.

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“We should be connecting people in crisis to care, not tossing them in jail,” Porter said in a statement at the time. “Mental illness is not a crime, and we have to stop treating it like one. Most police officers are not trained to care for individuals experiencing mental health crises, which too often tragically leads to unnecessary violence.”

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., speaks during a press briefing.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., speaks during a press briefing.
(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Porter’s legislation is part of a package of bills Democratic lawmakers are aiming to hold a vote on Friday ahead of the month-long August recess, according to a Republican aide. House members were advised Friday morning that “consideration of public safety legislation is possible” and additional votes are expected to take place.

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“Rep. Porter’s defund the police bill replaces law enforcement with mental health workers who will not be equipped to keep communities or themselves safe in dangerous, life-threatening situations,” the aide told Fox News Digital.

“Right before they leave town for August recess, Democrats are doubling-down on failed policies that have led to crime surges and lawlessness in American cities,” they added.

"Mental illness is not a crime, and we have to stop treating it like one," says Rep. Katie Porter, D-Calif. 

“Mental illness is not a crime, and we have to stop treating it like one,” says Rep. Katie Porter, D-Calif. 
(Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

The push to pass the bill along with a series of other measures comes as many Democrats try to ditch any association with the “defund the police” movement. The movement was sparked in 2020 following the death of George Floyd in police custody and led to several cities stripping some funding from police departments.

In January, the White House blamed the ongoing nationwide crime surge on the “underfunding of some police departments” and President Biden signed an executive order in May advancing effective, accountable policing to “build public trust and strengthen public safety.” The president has also unveiled a $37 billion effort to invest in U.S. law enforcement.

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“We should all agree: The answer is not to defund the police,” Biden said during his State of the Union address. “The answer is to fund the police with the resources and training they need to protect our communities.”

The White House and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi didn’t respond to requests for comment.

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