Oakwood starts training officers to better detect, address mental health issues

The Oakwood Safety Department has started a series of training sessions aimed at improving how officers deal with individuals with mental health conditions. FILE
The Oakwood Safety Department has started a series of training sessions aimed at improving how officers deal with individuals with mental health conditions. FILE

Credit: FILE

Credit: FILE

OAKWOOD – The Oakwood Safety Department has started a series of training sessions aimed at improving how officers deal with individuals with mental health conditions.

The programs will give Oakwood’s sworn safety personnel — all certified as police officers, firefighters and paramedics/EMTs — up to about 70 hours of training to help safely and effectively do their job, city Safety Director Alan Hill said.

“Increasing an officer’s knowledge and understanding of mental illness will assist them in de-escalation, ensuring the best outcomes in challenging situations,” according to Hill.

Nearly one in five U.S. adults, or 51.5 million, lived with a mental illness in 2019, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.

Mental illness-related needs are growing among all adult age groups, Public Health-Dayton & Montgomery County records show. Some of the most common mental health diagnoses among people ages 16 to 24 increased from 2009 to 2014, according to PHDMC.

Three of them — attention deficit disorder, anxiety disorders and Schizophrenia — jumped by more than 20%.

The number of mental health cases Oakwood handles in a given time period is difficult to quantify, Hill said in an email.

“I could have an officer talking with someone right now,” he said. “That person could be exhibiting signs of suffering from a mental condition.

“But as long as they show the ability to care for themselves, not showing signs of wanting to harm themselves or others, and do not present in a manic state, the officer’s initial observations may never be documented in an official report,” Hill added. “Therefore, no real way for me to tell you frequency during service calls.”

Oakwood’s training will include a 40-hour crisis intervention training certification course for all first-line supervisors, and all sworn safety department personnel will complete mental health first aid, according to a news release from the city.

A session on suicide intervention was led by Dr. Sallie Wilson Luther, a member of the Oakwood Board of Health, and Leigh Ann Fulford, a certified trainer on the topic.

Luther said the “Oakwood community has been at the forefront of suicide prevention” the past several years.

Officers will also receive de-escalation training that will provide “the essential tools and tactics needed to achieve the most desirable outcome when dealing with an individual in crisis,” according to the city.