The term co-responder refers to a non-law enforcement professional, such as a mental health worker, who responds alongside a police officer to the scene of an emergency or other situation that would traditionally be responded to solely by law enforcement. In some cases, co-responder can refer to both (or all) members of such a cooperative unit—with both the police officer and the non-law enforcement professional being considered each other’s co-responder. The idea behind co-responders is that many situations traditionally dealt with by police can be better handled by mental health professionals and behavioral health specialists, especially in cases involving people experiencing mental health problems or affected by substance abuse. Co-responders are trained to deescalate or help police deescalate situations that may otherwise result in arrest, hospitalization, violence, or self-harm. The exact role, function, and use of co-responders varies widely. They may be embedded within police departments or may come from other agencies. They may travel to situations together or arrive separately. The word co-responder is often used in terms related to this kind of system, such as co-responder team, co-responder unit, or co-responder training. In the US, the use and creation of co-responder programs has increased in recent years, often as a result of pressure to reduce arrests of—and police brutality against—people experiencing mental health problems (especially people of color). Many studies support their effectiveness in these areas. In the UK, the term co-responder is used in a different way in the context of cooperation between emergency medical personnel and other emergency personnel. In many instances, it refers to firefighters with basic emergency medical training who can treat people before the arrival of medical personnel.
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