The grant supported making a documentary film about how two Texas police officers are helping change the way police respond to mental health calls. The film follows Ernie and Joe, two police officers with the San Antonio Police Department’s mental health unit (along with their fellow officers), as they respond to 911 calls and work to divert people from jail and into treatment. Audiences are taken on Ernie and Joe’s personal journeys, weaving together their experiences during their daily encounters with people in crisis. More than a film, the documentary serves as a catalyst to create change in how police departments can better serve those with mental illness.
How You Can Help
Share the film with your community, including law enforcement and mental health organizations. Learn more and request a screening at https://ernieandjoethefilm.com/outreach.html. You can also support the outreach campaign for ERNIE & JOE: Crisis Cops by volunteering (contact firstname.lastname@example.org) or by making a donation to the Center for Independent Documentary. Additional funding received up to $25,000 each year of the grant will be matched 1 to 1 by The David and Lura Lovell Foundation.
The first need is to expand our successful national screening campaign to new and critical audiences. These include: hospitals, EMTs and psychiatric facilities that are often the first points of contact once an individual is delivered to an institution by law enforcement; corrections officers and detention deputies who oversee prisoners in rehabilitation facilities and prisons, where there are currently over 383,000 inmates with a mental illness; communities of faith, which are the go-to in many communities for individual and family mental health support: and lastly on-campus college and university security and public safety, who, with the increase in mental health challenges among students, are facing an uptick in calls in a greater variety of situations.
With this expansion into new audiences, another future need will be to hire an additional staff member. These new audiences and increased screenings will also create a demand for more and hopefully deeper data collection about and evaluation of our campaign’s impact. We currently use post-screening audience and host surveys, but with additional support, we could work with an evaluation consultant and/or entity to advise on ways to do more accurate, useful, and longer-term impact evaluation, which we currently do not have the resources to measure.
Finally, and equally important to the outreach team, a future need is to expand our highly successful, yet preliminary, engagement work using the film to create space for conversations about officer wellness. It is clear from our understanding of law enforcement and its culture that there is still tremendous stigma around seeking help for one’s own mental health challenges, and yet most officers are under immense stress and/or have experienced trauma at some point in their careers. Given the life-threatening seriousness of ignoring officer mental health, there is a growing movement to shift the culture and raise awareness among officers of the importance of their own self-care. We are confident that, with more support, ERNIE & JOE: Crisis Cops could play an invaluable role in this much-needed effort.