Providence, Rhode Island

Addressing Criminal Justice Contact and Overuse of Emergency Medical Services of Individuals with Mental Health Needs and Substance Abuse Disorders Through Diversion And Case Management

Providence Public Safety Building

Providence Police Officer Badge

Site LE Agency
Providence Police Department

Site Researcher
Sean Varano, Ph.D., Roger Williams University & Stephanie Manzi, Ph.D., Roger Williams University

Site Focus
Opioid Overdoses, Prescription Drug Abuse, Mental Health Disorder

SPI Strategy
Multi-agency collaboration, Place-based policing, Hospital-based intervention, Crisis Intervention Training

Site Cohort

Site Profile
Mid-sized urban area of 20.6 sq. miles with a population of 179,219

Project Overview

The Providence Police Department (PPD), in partnership with The Providence Center (TPC), proposes to form a Behavioral Health Response Team that aims to divert individuals with behavioral health needs into appropriate treatment settings and/or case management. The proposed project responds to high rates of arrest for low-level crime and Emergency Medical Services (EMS) utilization among individuals with both a significant “street presence” (e.g., chronically homeless) and co-occurring substance use and/or mental health disorders. In order to formalize and enhance existing diversion efforts, PPD will take on additional clinical and case management team members who will be responsible for providing on-scene assessment and referral as well as follow-up case management to aid in diversion efforts and to maintain people in treatment. In addition, PPD will work with their evaluation partners at Roger Williams University to identify Providence citizens at high-risk for arrest by analyzing arrest and EMS data, as well as the districts of the city with the highest rates of behavioral health-related arrests and emergency calls/transports. These high-risk individuals will be targeted for diversion into case management. 

Data Highlight

  • According to the CDC, Rhode Island has the fifth highest opioid overdose rate in the nation, with 292 opioid-related overdose deaths in 2015, and at least 286 in 2016.
  • Rhode Island has the highest rate of psychiatric admissions to general hospitals nationally.
  • Almost 24 percent and 37 percent of Rhode Island’s state prison population have a serious and persistent mental illness or a substance use disorder, respectively.
  • The SPI team will use a number of data sources including current and historical arrest and EMS data to assess how well the project is meeting goals. The SPI team will also survey officers to measure changes in their perceived capacity to effectively respond to individuals with chronic substance use and/or mental health problems.