Profs. Belkin Martinez and Sprague Martinez Partner with Community Agencies to Reimagine Responses to Mental Health Crises

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As police across the country bring social workers into their day-to-day work, many groups believe that effort isn’t enough. Profs. Dawn Belkin Martinez and Linda Sprague Martinez, faculty members at the Boston University School of Social Work (BUSSW), are supporting a community-led project to replace police involvement in mental health crises.

The City of Boston sought proposals for this work and awarded a grant to The City School and Boston Liberation Health, two local community organizations, to develop a police-free response process that involves direct input from communities dealing with trauma and mental health challenges. Prof. Belkin Martinez, an internationally recognized expert in a model known as Liberation Health, is advising the groups; while Prof. Sprague Martinez, a Roxbury resident, and community scholar, provides research support. 

The two professors serve on the project’s steering committee and will conduct evaluations and develop content. Other BU-affiliated participants include Maya Milic Straklj (SSW’12) and Chloe Frankel, lecturers at BUSSW; Emy Takinami (SSW’20), and Amatullah Mervin, executive director at The City School and a graduate of BU School of Theology.

Tara Venkatraman, program and strategy director at The City School, says, “This is very much part of a push from 2020 with the uprising in defense of Black life. It’s an outgrowth of that organizing and the work to divest from policing and reinvest in the community.”

“It’s the people on the ground who are saying the status quo isn’t working, that they aren’t happy and want something different,” says Belkin Martinez. “In so many situations, the consequences of calling the police in a mental health crisis are so grave that people would rather not do it. And if they’re not calling, they don’t get help elsewhere.”

Learn More About Prof. Belkin Martinez’s Research


Learn More About Prof. Sprague Martinez’s Research