Evaluation of a Mental Health Liaison Program at a Small Police Department

Emma F. Leaman, Jennifer C. Gibbs, Jennifer L. Schally

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Police officers typically are the first responders to a mental health crisis call. Often, they do not have the required training or tools to deal with these types of calls. This problem is exacerbated in small police departments, which often have fewer resources than large police departments. Alternative programs are needed in smaller police agencies to assist with these issues that officers are facing. This study uses a mixed methods approach to evaluate a recently developed mental health liaison internship program implemented in a small police department in Pennsylvania, exploring whether the program affected police morale and calls for service. Qualitative data from officer interviews indicated officers had a positive perception of the mental health liaison. Compared to the year before the internship program started, emergency calls for service for emotionally disturbed persons increased by 47% during the year the internship program was implemented, although this could be due to citizens trying to connect with the mental health liaison. Additionally, these calls were concentrated in four main addresses, comprising 30% of the emergency calls for service for emotionally disturbed persons in 2021 and 2022. These findings are discussed in light of the extant literature. Overall, the internship program provided an experiential learning opportunity for the student, assisted the small police department and improved officer morale.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Criminal Justice Education
StateAccepted/In press - 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Education
  • Law

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