The Mental Health Minute

Articles and news about mental health issues

Task force calls for more mental health training after Williams shooting

This is a sad article about a sad situation.  I understand the actions of the police, but my heart goes out to this woman who was suffering.  Please read this article and visit the original to read some of the comments.  If you do, you will see that the opinions are pretty well split either way.  I think this was a tough call for the police and unless we were there as a part of that decision, we cannot know what facts were included in that decision making.
As mental health budget cuts continue, we will see more and more of these types of activities.  I don’t think it can hurt for the police to receive more instruction on dealing with the mentally ill, but I also know that any dealing with a mentally ill person who has a weapon is dangerous and has the potential to end badly.
Published: March 15, 2010

Scranton police officers must be better trained to handle citizens with mental illness, and cooperation between law enforcement and mental health care providers must be strengthened, according to the task force formed after a mentally ill Scranton woman was shot to death by police last year.

The committee released its final report to Mayor Chris Doherty on Friday, and the mayor pledged Sunday night to implement the committee’s recommendations.

“We have to improve, and we have to do things better,” Mr. Doherty said. “I want to break down the walls between the Police Department and the mental health community.”

Officials have said the mental health system “failed” Brenda Williams, a 52-year-old paranoid schizophrenic who was shot in her North Scranton apartment on May 28 after she approached police with an 8-inch kitchen knife.

An internal police report and an investigation by the district attorney’s office cleared the officers of any wrongdoing.

Mr. Doherty met with Ray Hayes, a chairman of the task force and the city’s former director of public safety, on Friday to discuss the report.

The recommendations:

– Adopting and implementing a “crisis intervention team,” which the task force says would increase safety of all participants, reduce arrests for behavior primarily arising from mental illness, reduce costs and divert more individuals toward mental health treatment. Twenty percent of officers should receive specialized training in mental health crisis calls, and those officers should be designated to respond to such calls whenever possible. Dispatchers should also receive training.

– Establishing a protocol, including procedures to be followed by police officers. A wide range of inpatient and outpatient referral sources must be available to law enforcement, and all crisis officers should carry cards with contact information of mental health treatment providers, peer advocates and family advocates for their own reference and to distribute.

– Fostering cooperation between law enforcement and mental health care providers. “The program’s success depends on positive relationships and continuous cooperation between police and mental health service providers,” the report states.

– Making informal educational programs, information-sharing sessions and community involvement an integral component. Police officers should interact with mental health patients and family members to discuss issues such as police protocol, recovery plans and advocacy services. Members of the “crisis intervention team” should attend mental health community activities and neighborhood meetings and work the local media to educate the public.

– Appointing an advisory board, composed of major stakeholders, to oversee, analyze, recommend modifications and study future directions. The institution of the recommendations is “viewed as only the first step in an ongoing process. Once recommendations are implemented, the program must be continually assessed for effectiveness and monitored for any needed changes,” the report states.

– The report also addresses several other initiatives outside the scope of the task force’s charge: working closely with regional officials and stakeholders, particularly the Lackawanna County Criminal Justice Advisory Board to explore the possibility of expanding the program to a larger region; linking the “crisis intervention team” with the Lackawanna County specialty courts, such as a mental health court; and examining the feasibility of instituting mobile crisis units for urgent care.

Mr. Doherty said one of the first actions stemming from the report will be the training of police officers. Eight officers will attend a weeklong training in Johnstown next month, where they will learn about suicide and crisis prevention, intervention and de-escalation strategies, psychotropic medications, legal and civil rights, cultural diversity, juvenile issues and veteran’s issues.

Cambria and Somerset counties were one of the first areas of the state to establish a “crisis intervention team,” according to the report. After the officers return to Scranton, they will train additional police officers.

Efforts to reach Police union President Sgt. Bob Martin were unsuccessful Sunday night.

Mr. Doherty said the panel did a “phenomenal” job.

“We’re here to learn,” he said.

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March 20, 2010 - Posted by | Mental Health | , , , , , , ,


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    Pingback by Task force calls for more mental health training after Williams … · Weight Loss and Health News | March 20, 2010 | Reply

  2. This seems to be happening everywhere! Here in Oregon someone was shot and killed by police just last week. The day before he was shot, he told the police he needed mental health treatment.
    There was also a very high profile case a few years ago. A man by the name of James Chasse, who had schizophrenia, was tazed and beaten to death by Portland Police. It is devastating.
    I believe the police do not have the proper training – and until they do – situations like this will continue to occur.


    Comment by Victoria | March 31, 2010 | Reply

  3. Sorry for my bad english. Thank you so much for your good post. Your post helped me in my college assignment, If you can provide me more details please email me.

    Comment by Debt Settlement | April 23, 2010 | Reply

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