The Clermont County Mental Health and Recovery Board has received a grant to begin training police officers in crisis intervention and training for a mobile crisis team.
The $223,283 grant with a $108,038 in-kind local match will provide training to better prepare officers for dealing with someone who suffers from a mental illness and is exhibiting anti-social behavior. Clermont County Sheriff A.J. “Tim” Rodenberg said some of his officers have already had similar training and it has been an invaluable resource.
“Law enforcement has become a discipline that requires an officer to have significant knowledge of human behavior,” Rodenberg said. “It always has been but today people are under more and more pressure and this sometimes leads them to act out in socially unacceptable ways.”
CCMHRB Executive Director Karen Scherra said the training will help officers to quickly determine whether or not someone is in the midst of a mental health crisis.
"Someone off their medicines could be acting out, fighting, or creating a nuisance and they might not always be in the right frame of mind to respond to police commands," Scherra said.
Rodenberg said that unfortunate tragedies have occurred in the past in other areas of the country where an officer responded to a mental health crisis and due to insufficient training the situation escalated.
"Our intention is to ensure that people are handled properly while protecting the individuals, society, and of course the safety of the officer," Rodenberg said. "We certainly appreciate anything that can be a tool to help us do our job better."
The 40-hour training will be provided for select officers in each department in the county and will help them recognize the signs of mental illness and determine when someone has not been taking their medication. In addition to offering training to officers with no prior mental health training, Scherra said it could also serve as a refresher course.
The CCMHRB currently officers assistance to officers through their crisis hotline. Officers can call (513) 528-SAVE (7283) 24 hours a day seven days a week to provide advice to officers or speak to the individuals they are dealing with directly. Scherra said she hope the training will help the officers make better use of the resource.
The grant will also provide for training and staffing of a mobile crisis team that could be called in by officers to deal with mental health emergencies. Scherra said the grant will provide officers with access to licensed professionals who can arrive on scene to assist officers or emergency responders. She said trained professionals will have a better understanding of the entire issues leading to the behavior that resulted in a call to the police or emergency responders and will be in a better position to deescalate the situation.
"They will work to calm the person down and make an assessment to determine what the concern is," Scherra said. "They will be able to help the person calm down, take their medication, or make the decision to transport someone to a hospital.
The team would not be available 24 hours a day, but instead would be on call during peak mental crisis times from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and could be expanded to nights.
"This is something we have wanted for a long time and now we have the funding for it," Scherra said.
She said by providing officers with a better understanding of mental health issues they will be able to handle the situation more efficiently and it could result in fewer arrests and fewer people with mental illnesses in the court system.
The grant was awarded Thursday, Sept. 9 and allows for six months of planning and 18 months of implementation. After the grant expires Scherra said there is an option to continue the funding by reapplying for the grant. She said it is also something that could be funded through the CCMHRB levy.