Should Police Officers Be First Responders For 911 Medical Calls

Mental Illness vs Terrorism

These days medical problems are  morphing into “national security” risks.

Muslims with mental illness, who commit violent acts, are diagnosed as ‘terrorists’ and their mental illness ignored. Black people with mental illness, who are a threat to themselves, maybe suicide, are now being killed by first responder cops who feel threatened by their color and illness.

So as more medical problems are misdiagnosed as national security risks, negative health outcomes increase.

What do we physicians do to honor the oath of doing no harm? By permitting first responders to harm mentally ill patients, we abandon our oath and add to poor outcomes and the mounting expense of healthcare.

Aren’t we the gatekeepers of healthcare? Shouldn’t we intervene when harm is done by those who are supposed to transport and help keep our patients healthy?

{I believe} There are no official statistics on the number of deaths or injuries caused by first responders.

Given the current environment, where cops ‘shoot to kill’ suicidal patients and those with flare ups of their mental illness, isn’t it time we track such?

If the medical community remains silent and blind to these egregious deviations in the standard of care, we will herald in a new era of medicine where harm is normal. A situation where medical error is the number one leading cause of death instead of a close third.

Lack of responsible oversight or statistics on LEO (Law Enforcement Officer) encounters with patients experiencing flare ups, or severe mental illness, has put patients at risk for death and worsening of their mental and physical ailments.

Simple interventions can go a long way. Straightforward respectful communication, on the part of first responders, can go a long way to averting bad outcomes.

Unfortunately, in most cases with bad outcomes, communication is poor. Attempts to get family members or friends involved, to de-escalate the situation, are now rarely sought.

Why? Is it better to just kill these patients who are in need of help?

Cops are first responders in the healthcare delivery system and as such should attempt to do no harm at all cost.  They chose to be police officers and are paid well for the service they are hired to perform.

Has the principle of mental illness care changed such that death by first responders is a more cost effective mode? Has imprisonment become a more secure environment for patients with mental illness? Where have all the State mental hospitals gone?

These are all problematic questions. We have a rise in mental and physical illnesses with poorer medical outcomes. And are we planning to exclude these patients from government statistics to make our health outcomes sound better than they actually are?

Misdiagnosing those with severe mental illness as terrorists, or threats to police security, leads to an escalation in problems. More power and money spent on law enforcement and less on effective treatment that could improve health outcomes.

Over 55 cents of each dollar goes to the DoD instead of money spent to better understand and treat people with mental illness humanely. We could target effective approaches to treat and de-escalate flare-ups so common in patients with severe mental illness.

Much debate has gone into First and Second Amendment rights. Let’s now face in earnest the reality around us.  A reality for which we have no metric or indicator to guide us when police officers administer inappropriate first responder care. A reality that unnecessarily mislabels patients and does harm when patients are treated as criminals.

I leave the reader with this last question: Should Police Officers be first responders for 911  medical calls?

Leave me your answer in the comments…