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Blunt Talks Need for DOJ Leadership, Mental Health Access as Part of Police Reform Efforts

June 16, 2020

WASHINGTON – At the weekly Republican leadership press conference today, U.S. Senator Roy Blunt (Mo.) reiterated his call for the Justice Department to aid local police reform efforts. Following on President Trump’s Executive Order, Blunt also discussed his efforts to expand access to mental health care to help police officers better respond to people with a mental or behavioral health issue. 

Following Are Blunt’s Remarks:

“I certainly anticipate supporting the bill that Tim Scott will introduce, I think I’ll be an original cosponsor of that bill. I also think though, an even more speedy way to respond than the legislative process is the executive branch doing what they can, as soon as they can, to make a difference. Many of you know I think that the Justice Department has real tools to go in and give advice to departments. Sometimes asked for, sometimes the Justice Department needs to insist that they be in there giving that advice. That’s not the national government taking over police, it’s the Justice Department looking at one department with a systemic problem and deciding they’re going to help solve that problem.

“But also, I was really glad this morning to see the president talk about policing efforts that deal with mental health, and homelessness, and addiction. In our state, we’re one of the eight states for the last four years or so that have been treating in a number of locations around the state mental health like all other health. Some of the big advocates for that have become our police departments.

“HHS has statistics that indicate in states like Missouri, that are Excellence in Mental Health states, that time spent in jail is 60% less than it would be otherwise normally, because people don’t go to jail. Normally, because when people are picked up they go somewhere more appropriate for the problem they’re dealing with than jail or court. They go to the mental health counselor, they go to somewhere where they get a chance to stay somewhere and find out where the help they need can be achieved.

“The addiction issues that we saw for two or three years, consistently heading in one direction have now, with loss of jobs and isolation, been heading back up. Those are the kind of things that nobody is better positioned than the administration to begin to advocate right away and I was glad to see the president do that today.”

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