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Police Chiefs and Community Mental Health Providers Are of “One Mind” about Mental Illness

National Council for Mental Wellbeing Applauds IACP Campaign to Improve Police Response to People Affected by Mental Illnesses

San Diego and Washington, DC – October 17, 2016 – The National Council for Mental Wellbeing praises The International Association of Chiefs of Police’s (IACP) sweeping proposal to systemically improve the way law enforcement officers respond to people with mental illnesses.

Today, National Council president and CEO Linda Rosenberg joined IACP leaders, officials from the Bureau of Justice Affairs and Lt. Michael Woody from CIT International on stage at the annual IACP conference to launch the “One Mind Campaign.” The campaign calls on all police agencies in the United States to train 100 percent of sworn officers and other support staff in Mental Health First Aid and train at least 20 percent of sworn staff in the Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) response model.

“Police officers are facing situations they never should have to face,” said Rosenberg. “We owe it to them and the people they serve to equip them to deal with mental health issues in a way that protects both the person and the officer. IACP is to be commended for their thoughtful approach to this goal.”

Tools like Mental Health First Aid give officers the skills to recognize and respond to immediate crisis – and like first aid or CPR, allows them to stabilize someone and deescalate crisis. Safely deescalating situations is, without question, now a critical mandate for our nation.

A 2015 Washington Post study concluded that one-fourth of those killed in officer-involved shootings were experiencing an emotional crisis. The Treatment Advocacy Center found that persons with severe mental illnesses are 16 times more likely to be killed by police than other civilians. In addition, the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA) reported that 63-76 percent of incarcerated adults and 50-70 percent of juveniles, “met the criteria for a mental health disorder.”

“Every day, law enforcement officers are on the front lines responding to people in crisis because of a mental illness, yet often the officers do not have the proper training to spot and react quickly,” said Rep. Lynn Jenkins (R-KS), who along with Rep. Doris Matsui (D-CA) is a co-sponsor of the Mental Health First Aid Act. “Mental Health First Aid helps train law enforcement officers to identify, understand, and support people who need it. I applaud the International Association of Chiefs of Police for recognizing the value of Mental Health First Aid and including it as of part of their One Mind Campaign and hope to see police agencies across the country follow their lead.”

Under the “One Mind Campaign,” IACP is calling on police agencies in the U.S. not only to train their officers, staff and dispatchers, but also to collaborate with one or more community mental health providers and develop an agency-wide policy on addressing people in mental health crises.

Officers trained in Mental Health First Aid speak highly of what they learned:

“Mental Health First Aid skills can be applied anytime, anywhere, and to anyone in distress,” said retired police Capt. Joseph Coffey from Rhode Island. “If we can prevent today’s depressed person from becoming tomorrow’s barricaded person, then we’ve done our job on many, many levels.”

  • “I wish that every corrections officer could receive Mental Health First Aid training,” said Lt. Virgil Meyer from the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections. “I believe that our corrections system would be better because of it – the inmates would benefit, the officers would benefit and ultimately our communities would benefit.”
  • One veteran dispatcher from Maryland wrote, “I’ve been doing this job for 20 years, and my only regret is that I didn’t get this training sooner.”

About the National Council for Mental Wellbeing

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