A Model for Defunding: An Evidence-Based Statute for Behavioral Health Crisis Response

67 Pages Posted: 3 Sep 2020 Last revised: 28 Jun 2022

See all articles by Taleed El-Sabawi

Taleed El-Sabawi

Florida International University (FIU) - College of Law; Georgetown University - The O'Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law

Jennifer J. Carroll

North Carolina State University; Warren Alpert Medical School

Date Written: September 8, 2020


NOTE: Model law is located in the Appendix.

Too many Black persons and other persons of color are dying at the hands of law enforcement, leading many to call for the defunding of police. These deaths were directly caused by excessive use of force by police officers, but were also driven by upstream and institutional factors that include structural racism, institutional bias, and a historic culture of racialized violence. Public outcry against racial inequities has increased as the authority of police departments has expanded to include not only the authority to respond to and investigate criminal activity, but also to respond to calls regarding behavioral health issues and houselessness. Defunding police raises questions about how budget cuts should affect the types of services provided by police departments and what new and improved responses may look like. While advocates may have identified model programs that they hope will be the answer to defunding the police, many community organizers lack the legal training necessary to fully develop these models into policy proposals that institutionalize their visions in ways that protect against law enforcement co-option and make their visions a reality. This article proposes a model law (the Model Behavioral Health Response Team Act) that can be tailored to meet the needs of local and state policymakers endeavoring to create a new institution to replace the police in responding to mental health, substance use, and housing crisis. The institution created by this model act is evidence-based, person-centered, and community-driven. It is informed by empirical evidence on crisis response, federal guidelines, and a case-study of political activity motivated by the use of police excess of force that resulted in the death of a Black man in Greensboro, N.C.

Keywords: defund, police, drugs, addiction, model law, crisis response, CAHOOTS, mental health

Suggested Citation

El-Sabawi, Taleed and Carroll, Jennifer, A Model for Defunding: An Evidence-Based Statute for Behavioral Health Crisis Response (September 8, 2020). Temple Law Review, Vol. 94, 2022, Elon University Law Legal Studies Research Paper Forthcoming, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3683432 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3683432

Taleed El-Sabawi (Contact Author)

Florida International University (FIU) - College of Law ( email )

11200 SW 8th St.
RDB Hall 1097
Miami, FL 33199
United States

Georgetown University - The O'Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law ( email )

600 New Jersey Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20001
United States

HOME PAGE: http://https://oneill.law.georgetown.edu/experts/taleed-el-sabawi/

Jennifer Carroll

North Carolina State University ( email )

10 Current Drive
Campus Box 8107
Raleigh, NC 27695
United States

Warren Alpert Medical School ( email )

Providence, RI 02912
United States

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