Bill proposes $15M for police mental health crisis training

Bipartisan legislation introduced in both the U.S. House and Senate this week aims to help police officers better handle mental health crisis situations.

About one out of every 10 police response calls nationwide involve a person suffering from a mental illness, according to the nonprofit Treatment Advocacy Center. That number is one in four for people killed during police response incidents. 

The Dayton Daily News’ Path Forward team is digging into solutions to the Miami Valley’s biggest issues, including mental health. 

DETAILS: Why youth mental health is one of the Miami Valley’s biggest issues 

The Law Enforcement Training For Mental Health Crisis Response Act of 2019 was introduced Wednesday in the Senate by U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, and U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Oklahoma; and in the House by U.S. Rep. Anthony Gonzalez, R-Rocky River, Ohio, and U.S. Rep. Kendra Horn, D-Oklahoma City. 

The bill would provide $15 million in funding over three years through the U.S. Department of Justice to train police on how to best interact with individuals with mental illness, and resolve and deescalate any potential issues that might arise. 

The goal of the bill is to reduce the number of law enforcement officers and members of the public who are killed or injured during situations in which mental health plays a role. 

RELATED: How some area officers are training for calls involving the mentally ill 

“When our law enforcement officers have the training and resources they need to respond to mental health crises, we can better ensure the safety of our first responders, individuals in crisis, and members of our communities,” Brown said in a news release announcing the legislation. 

The bill’s introduction coincides with National Police Week. 

“This training reminds officers to slow down and take the time to handle these situations at a pace fitting for those who are experiencing these crises. Building a good rapport with people can also be beneficial to future encounters,” said Wayne County Ohio Sheriff Travis Hutchinson in the press release. 

Numerous local police agencies have participated in crisis intervention training hosted by Montgomery County Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services. 

The program “improves officer safety and helps minimize the amount of time officers spend on mental-disturbance calls,” said Butler Twp. Police Chief John Porter last year. “And it may save money by diverting mentally ill people from jail into appropriate mental health treatment.” 

The program teaches officers specific communication strategies and how to identify mental health resources. It also gives officers a way to deescalate a situation through scenario-based training. 

Many departments use the grants like those proposed in the legislation to cover over-time costs so their officers can attend this type of training. 

Staff Writer Emily Kronenberger contributed to this report.

ABOUT THE PATH FORWARD  

We have formed a team to dig into the most pressing issues facing the Miami Valley. The Path Forward project, with your help and with that of a 16-member community advisory board, seeks solutions to issues readers told us they were most concerned about, including the Miami Valley’s mental health.  Follow the project on our Facebook pages and at DaytonDailyNews.com/PathFoward and share your ideas.

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