Promising approaches to police—mental health partnerships to improve service utilization for at-risk youth.

Youth involved in the juvenile justice system typically have a high prevalence of mental health disorders. Although police are frequently the first point of contact for these youth, they are often not trained to understand or address their mental health challenges. To combat this, interventions through community policing have increased police awareness of mental health and decreased arrests of these youth throughout the country. Yet there is scant research examining the effects these changes have had on access to mental health treatment for youth. This study aims to assess whether Cambridge’s police—mental health collaboration increased utilization of youth mental health care. This study included 207 subjects who were either diverted (n = 71) or summonsed/arrested (n = 136). Their individual arrest and health care records were combined to retrospectively evaluate the rate of health care service utilization before and after initial police contact. Both groups showed similar rates of mental health diagnoses. Youth who were diverted had significantly increased outpatient mental health visits when comparing before with after diversion. This rate was also significantly higher than that of those with an initial arrest or summons. There was no difference between groups for acute inpatient visits or emergency department (ED) visits. These findings support translational efforts to partner police with community mental health providers to increase access to treatment, decrease stigma, and keep our neighborhoods safe. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved)