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May 18, 2012

Area officers learn ways to deal with mentally ill

JEFFERSONVILLE — Clark County Circuit Court No. 1 Judge Dan Moore is working to arm Clark County officers with the training they need to identify those who have mental illnesses and how to respond to them while they are on the job.

Moore said if mental illness isn’t understood, officers may take people to jail after thinking they are being disorderly.

“It’s training area officers how to recognize the signs of mental illness, so they can take them to the hospital,” Moore said. “That person needs quick intervention by medical experts.”

Officers from Charlestown, Clarksville and Jeffersonville police departments in addition to the Clark County Sheriff’s Department came to the three-day Crisis Intervention Training this week to learn the signs of mental illness and how to react to them.

Jeffersonville Police Patrolman Chris Martin said he deals with mentally ill people on a daily basis.

“I thought it’d be good to better understand the mentally ill. I know it will help me on the streets when I’m dealing with them,” he said. “I’ve learned how to talk to them and the signs to look for.”

Jeffersonville Police Cpl. Keith Broady said it is important to know the signs, so that officers understand the person isn’t being defiant, but cannot respond as someone else can at that moment.

“There are so many unknowns when you are dealing with somebody with a mental illness,” he said. “There are so many ways they can react to their illness and you don’t want to hurt them [by being hands-on], because it isn’t their fault.”

A total of 16 people came to the training, up seven from last year, which was the first year for the program, Program Coordinator Leah James said.

James said when mentally ill people are mistakenly taken to jail, it is disruptive to the people in the jail as well as more traumatizing for the ill person.

“It’s for the patient to get the help they really need. They aren’t criminals. They are ill,” she said.

Moore said the program is funded through a federal grant. He said he hopes the county will continue to receive the grant funds to keep the program going in the future. If not, he said he will ask the county to consider paying for its continuance.

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