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Police departments, including Cleveland, push for more crisis training and mental health sensitivity

Policing, incarceration, and mental health [shutterstock]
Policing, incarceration, and mental health [shutterstock]

If your house is on fire you call the fire department, or if someone is injured- you call the EMS.

So if a first responder is called in to address someone experiencing a mental health crisis, or a drug overdose- shouldn't those responders be equipped with the training for the situation? Or logically, be accompanied by someone who is?

Across the country, advocates for better policing practices are pushing law enforcement departments to re-evaluate how officers respond, to individuals in crisis.

That crisis may include a mental health episode, perhaps a drug overdose or withdrawal, be someone who is exhibiting suicidal tendencies, possibly even domestic abuse, or human trafficking.

But when an officer responders to a situation, and someone is perceived as being a threat to people around them, the officers, or even themselves may be inclined to react with disproportionate, or even lethal, force.

But even if uninjured, the detained individual is often at risk of being processed by the legal system, and winding up incarcerated - without ever being treated for what's really at the cause of the disturbance.

Movements to make that less likely to happen are beginning around the state.
The city of Dayton, for instance, is working to implement an "alternative response" system, set to be in place this year.

Police officers in Massillon are undergoing crisis intervention training (or CIT).
In Cuyahoga County, Shaker Heights is working through a pilot program of sending social workers out on 'some' 9-1-1 calls.

On today's program we'll be spending the full hour looking at how law enforcement interacts with individuals in crisis, whether that be due to addiction, or mental illness. And try to answer the question; why are mental health emergencies the one type of health emergency that is treated criminally, rather than medically?

We also look into some of the new programs that are already underway in Northeast Ohio.

The panel of guests include several representatives from the Cleveland Division of Police, as well as policy experts, and mental health professionals.

- James McPike, Captain, Cleveland Division of Police

- Jon Holub, Detective, Cleveland Division of Police

- Emma Borelli, Frontline Services Worker and Clinician

- Scott Osiecki, Chief Executive Officer, ADAMHS Board of Cuyahoga County

- Piet Van Lier, Senior Researcher, Policy Matters Ohio

- Lori D’Angelo, Executive Director, Magnolia Clubhouse,

Drew Maziasz is a coordinating producer for the "Sound of Ideas" and also serves as the show’s technical producer.