Police Learn to Deal With Mentally Ill - Diverse Health

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Police Learn to Deal With Mentally Ill


by Ken De La Bastide, Associated Press

ANDERSON, Ind. — Police agencies in the Anderson area have formed Crisis Intervention Team training to better deal with people exhibiting signs of mental illness.

With the closing of many state-run facilities for the mentally ill, law enforcement officials are having to deal with them on the streets and in crisis situations. Many are arrested and placed in the Madison County Detention Center.

In November, the Anderson Police Department hosted Crisis Intervention Team training and opened it up to other law enforcement agencies. Twenty-seven officers from six Indiana law enforcement agencies took part in the 40-hour exercise.

For the past several years, veteran police officer Johnathan Konkle was convinced there had to be a better way to respond to calls for help that involve people who exhibit signs of mental illness. Konkle is now training coordinator for the Anderson Police Department and spearheaded the local training. He went through the training in 2012 when the Madison County Sheriff’s and the Chesterfield Police departments participated.

According to national statistics, more than one in five people in the United States suffer from some form of mental illness, such as depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, bipolar mood disorder, personality disorders, trauma and eating disorders. The most common mental illnesses are anxiety and depressive disorders.

Through Konkle’s efforts, APD took the opportunity a step further and brought the training to Anderson and Madison County.
The program was vital due to the decades-long decline in mental health hospital beds and facilities, he said. The goal is to help keep people with mental health issues out of local jails as much as possible.

The Crisis Intervention Team approach originated in Memphis, Tennessee. It is an innovative program to help law enforcement officers more effectively manage crisis events when they encounter individuals  experiencing behavioral health crises due to mental illness or other factors such as substance abuse.

Upon completion of the course, officers are better prepared to:

• Understand the signs and symptoms of mental illnesses and co-occurring disorders.
• Recognize when those signs and symptoms represent a crisis.
• Safely de-escalate individuals experiencing behavioral health crises.
• Use community resources and diversion strategies to provide emergency assistance.

“This program is a priority,” Mayor Thomas J. Broderick Jr. said via a press release. “Mental health issues have not been given adequate attention over the past several years, in my view. I am proud the City of Anderson is helping to lead the way in Madison County to change this.

“Providing this training and others in the future will help to ensure that our officers are adequately trained and using the most effective techniques to ensure their safety and the safety of others when responding to situations involving the mentally ill,” he said.

The training consisted of intensive role playing based on real situations officers have faced in the field. Participants also spent time meeting with people who have mental illness to learn what it’s like to live with the illness and hear about their past experiences with the police.

“It’s important for the Anderson Police Department to be progressive in it’s training,” said Konkle. “Everyday our officers encounter individuals with a mental illness and they need to know how to effectively manage these situations to try and prevent an unfortunate ending. CIT is a proven training method that helps our officers ensure that our citizens are getting the help they deserve.”