Opinion

11/14 Letters: Robin Sorrell on veterans, J. Thomas Manger and Linda Rosenberg and mental health training for police

Honoring our veterans

I attended a lovely service on Veterans Day at Oak Grove Cemetery. There were not many there, which was sad. The speaker, Ira McCarson, gave a wonderful message on what it meant to be a veteran.

I was told by an attendee, a Navy vet and a high school classmate, that Mr. McCarson was a Vietnam medic. I'm sure he has seen more than his share of tragedy in that role.

I thank all veterans, past, present and future, for their role in keeping our country safe. Thanks also to Chaplain Crabtree and Jeffrey at Oak Grove.

I hope next year more people will come to honor our veterans. Where would we be without them?

Robin Sorrell

Durham

1 in 10 police calls

Approximately one in 10 police calls involves a person with mental illness, making police the nation’s de facto first responders to mental-health crises. Although police are on the front lines, they often do not have the training to recognize and appropriately respond when an emergency involves a mental health crisis.

When police officers in Providence, R.I., encountered a distressed young man brandishing a knife, the situation could have gone horribly wrong. The youth ignored officers’ commands to drop the knife and began advancing on them.

But the officers didn’t draw their weapons. Instead, Lt. Daniel Gannon drew on his training in Mental Health First Aid for Public Safety. He spoke to the young man in a reassuring voice about his desire to help.

Eventually, the young man dropped the knife. Instead of being charged with a crime, he agreed to be evaluated at a local hospital. Lt. Gannon’s Mental Health First Aid training gave him the skills to identify, understand and respond to the signs of an emerging mental-health crisis. His reaction may well have saved both their lives that day.

One in four people killed by police in 2017 were mentally ill. Police officers join law enforcement to help people and support their communities, but when officers aren’t prepared to respond effectively to a behavioral health crisis, they put themselves and the individual who is mentally ill at risk. They need training to help respond to those affected by mental illnesses and addictions.

The National Council for Behavioral Health offers Mental Health First Aid, an actionable public safety training program to help officers better understand mental illnesses so they can safely deescalate crises without compromising safety. The program also focuses on early intervention, diversion and referral to clinical support.

Recognizing the effectiveness of this training, the International Association of Chiefs of Police instituted the One Mind Campaign, which includes a commitment to train and certify 100 percent of their agency’s sworn officers in Mental Health First Aid for Public Safety. To date, 246 law enforcement agencies around the country have taken the One Mind Pledge. Agencies from Alpharetta, Ga., to Yarmouth, Mass. – including the Baltimore City, Houston and Minneapolis police departments – are working with Mental Health First Aid to make this groundbreaking training part of their commitment to protect and serve.

Mental Health First Aid for Public Safety ensures that every officer in the field has tools to deescalate potentially dangerous situations. Mental Health First Aid training has also helped many officers in their personal lives by providing strategies to help themselves, their families and their partners.

For the last four years, federal funding has supported Mental Health First Aid training for individuals who work with youth. The National Council for Behavioral Health joins with the Major Cities Chiefs Association in thanking Congress for extending their support to the training of police and first responders. Mental Health First Aid for Public Safety gives police additional tools to deescalate an incident and to connect the person to needed care.

J. Thomas Manger

Major Cities Chiefs Association

Linda Rosenberg

National Council for Behavioral Health

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