FR Mental Health Training in the Spotlight after Two Recent Police Shootings

According to an article in The San Mateo Daily Journal, two recent police officer-involved shootings of individuals with mental illness have left some people frustrated about the lack of funding for specialty training and for resources for family members.

Sheriff’s Deputy Jim Coffman told The Daily Journal that San Mateo County offers Crisis Intervention Training (CIT) for “first responders such as law enforcement, police dispatchers, paramedics and hospital security officers about twice a year.”

The voluntary 40-hour course began in 2005 and according to Coffman, “instructs officers how to effectively deal with someone who is in crisis and suffers from mental illness.”

Sharon Roth, vice president of the board of directors for San Mateo County’s chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) also spoke to The Daily Journal.

“The real issue is a lack of highly trained first responders and resources for families,” said Roth in the article. “State legislators have tried to enact laws requiring officers to undergo programs such as CIT, but none have been successful and funding is scarce. NAMI would like to see more people trained, particularly police dispatchers, who could ask specific questions to inform an officer what they may be dealing with or attempt to have a CIT-trained officer respond.”

Coffman told The Daily Journal that “CIT can make a huge difference in an officer recognizing the symptoms of mental illness, determining how to react to and how to help.”

While this piece focuses on the situation in one California county, the issue is national. How well are our first responders being trained? Can they properly handle situations involving individuals with mental illness who are in crisis? Do they have methods to handle these situations without resorting to violence or ultimately the death of the individual? What resources do the family members of these individuals have? What resources do these individuals have? Are weapons such as guns too easy for individuals in crisis to access? These are all questions worth thinking about.

 

For more information, see the original article here: http://www.smdailyjournal.com/articles/lnews/2014-06-14/mental-health-training-in-focus-after-police-shootings-two-recent-incidents-highlight-need-for-more-first-responder-resources/1776425124979.html