October 13, 2004

NAMI Training Police Officers on Mental Illness

A recent story came out of "The Mansfield News Journal" on how NAMI (the US-based National Alliance for the Mentall Ill) is working to train police officers on how to address people who have schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

Its great to see some programs like this being started - but you have to wonder why the police aren't trained like this as part of their standard schooling since the problem is such a huge issue in the US and other countries.

Following is a short summary of the story:

Richland County law-enforcement agencies have 61 officers trained to deal with calls involving the mentally ill -- calming the person and easing tensions so the person can be taken for treatment, instead of to jail.

The National Alliance for the Mentally Ill of Richland County wrapped up a 40-hour intensive training class this week with graduation ceremonies Friday afternoon at the Richland County Fairgrounds.

NAMI's goal is to get one-fourth to one-third of all police officers in the county trained.

New police officers who complete state peace officer training get only one hour's instruction on mental-illness issues as part of their standard training -- even though 10 percent of all the calls they'll respond to are mental-illness related.

The 40-hour NAMI course helps officers recognize the symptoms of schizophrenia and other serious illnesses, and shows how officers can bring incidents to a peaceful resolution, he said.

Officer Petrycki said he already has used his training several times.

One incident involved a father who reported his adult son outside his apartment with a knife, threatening him. When Petrycki arrived, "you could tell he (the son) was in crisis. He was agitated, pacing back and forth, not talking rationally..."

Petrycki asked what he could do to help and told the man he wasn't there to hurt him. Eventually, the boy calmed down and dropped the knife. The officer then gave the man money to call his caseworker. "He didn't end up in jail. I didn't up getting hurt. My partner didn't end up getting hurt. He didn't end up getting hurt," the officer said.

For More Information See:

NAMI Criminalization of the Mentally Ill Web Information

News Story:

60 Minutes II Investigates Police Training and Mental Illness


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