Illinois police required to take mental health awareness trainin - WSIL-TV 3 Southern Illinois

Illinois police required to take mental health awareness training

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CARBONDALE -- When someone suffers a mental health crisis, police officers are usually first on scene. But a majority of officers are not trained on how to safely interact with people who have a mental illness. 
Chuck Doan, the Director of the Southern Illinois Criminial Justice Training Program, says officers have two roles when responding to an emergency.

"One is arrest people for committing crimes, introduce them into the criminal justice system or recogonize someone has mental health issues and they need to be introduced into mental health system," said Doan. 

When an officer pulls up on scene, they often have no idea which role they'll need to pursue. Heather Reno, Carterville's Chief of Police says, there's no way to know until a pattern starts developing.

"The only way we would know is by memory, like 'oh, okay. That's so and so because we've dealt with them two times in the past month," said Reno. 

So to handle those situations more safely, a new mandate in 2018 requires Illinois officers to take an eight hour course every three years on "Mental Health Awareness." Doan says officers will learn the types of illnesses they may encounter, signs and symptoms and what potential interactions these individuals may have with law enforcement. 

"You're going to handle it the way you mentally prepared yourself to handle it," said Doan.  

According to Mental Health First Aid, in 2017, 730 people died in law enforcement confrontations. Mental illness played a role in a quarter of those incidents. Doan says improvement is needed becauase he believes mental health is the root of many issues when it comes to interaction with law enforcement. Something this training will hopefully accomplish. 

"Just be more aware of people who need mental health intervention, not criminal justice intervention," said Doan. 

Doan says officers will begin training next month. He says there will be breakout sessions and role playing to help these officers prepare for anything. 

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