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New Report Points To Progress With Cleveland Police Training For Mental Health Calls

A new class of police officers lines up in Cleveland city hall in 2015. [Nick Castele / ideastream]

Efforts to improve how Cleveland Police officers respond to residents experiencing mental health issues are showing some progress, according to a new report released by the ADAMHS Board – the organization overseeing mental health services in Cuyahoga County.

The report summarizes the 2017 activities for the Mental Health Response Advisory Committee which was put into place as part of the police reform agreement between the city of Cleveland and the US Justice Department. 

Cuyahoga County ADAMHS Board Acting CEO Scott Osiecki said one big accomplishment stems from the eight hours of crisis training that all 1400 Cleveland police officers received last year. Osiecki said there is proof the training is working when comparing data collected from stat sheets submitted from officers between 2014 and 2017.

“Part of the training and part of our goals is that we want officers to use verbal de-escalation – a technique to de-escalate any sort of situation that a person with mental illness might be having that would require a call to 911,” Osiecki explained. “We’re seeing the use of verbal de-escalation go up and then we’re also seeing injuries with a client, that we’re seeing that go down as well as injuries to officers are going down. So that proves the verbal de-escalation is working.”

Osiecki said the data shows that use of verbal de-escalation went up from 78 percent to 86 percent from 2014 to 2017. But Osiecki said one drawback is that the data only covers ten percent of calls police answered involving mental health issues. The goal in 2018 is to use a computerized system to get officers to fill out stat sheets for 100 percent of the calls. Other things targeted for improvement include developing a better referral and tracking system to ensure people get the treatment they need. 

Besides providing eight hours of training for all Cleveland police officers, another goal this year is to have a specialized Crisis Intervention Team in place -- comprised of at least 600 officers who go through a more intense training program. Officers will apply to be part of this specialized force. The plan is to have that specialized training completed by this fall.   

kay.colby@ideastream.org | 216-916-6410