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Training program designed to get law enforcement more ready to handle mental health crises

EUREKA- Officials with the Department of Health and Human Services Mental Health say one in four people at some point in their life are diagnosed with a mental illness.  A training program, which concluded Friday, is designed to help law enforcement deal with situations involving people with mental health issues.

Department of Health and Human Services Mental Health officials say about 30 percent of person in distress calls to law enforcement involve someone in a mental health crisis.

"So we deal with that every day.  That's a very common call and so we have some options of how to help people in that situation and in this class we're learning about other options, more options," said Sgt. Robert Martinez with the Arcata Police Department.

In the 11th Crisis Intervention Team Training, which was held at the Humboldt County Bay Aquatic Center and was organized through a partnership between DHHS Mental Health, the local chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, and the Arcata Police Department, resources available to law enforcement and ways to better deal with mental crisis situations were addressed.  The four day training program is 36 hours and includes multiple presentations and speakers.

"When somebody is in a mental health crisis, law enforcement needs to have an understanding.  They need to be able to have the skills to recognize, 'Is this an issue which can be dealt with right here?  Is this an issue where this person can voluntarily go to seek mental health treatment? Or is this something that's going to require involuntary treatment?’" said Mark Lamers, a Supervising Clinician with DHHS, Mental Health.

"This is an amazing training because it really emphasized the partnership that we have with Humboldt County mental health in resolving issues that we come across every day with people that have a mental illness," said Sgt. Martinez.

The first day provided those who attended from The Arcata Police Department, Fortuna Police Department, the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Department and representatives from national and state parks attended.  The first day provided attendees an understanding of mental health issues.  The next day provided perspectives from law enforcement. The third day was for providing an understanding of what resources people with mental health issues can use, and on Friday, the purpose was to have people suffering from mental health issues and their family members share what works and what doesn’t work for them when they interact with law enforcement.

"These are our brothers, our sisters, our moms and dads. And often, it's law enforcement that are called when somebody is in a crisis.  And we appreciate that they're getting the training in order to do the right thing when that happens," Lamers said.

Making law enforcement better equipped to help the people who need it most.