Police receive grant for mental health training

Officers at the training.
Officers at the training.

(FOX19) - It can be one of the most challenging situations an officer faces, trying to diffuse a situation involving someone with a mental illness.

You may remember last December police in Latonia spent 20 hours in a standoff with Michael Vaughn, a veteran unknowingly suffering from post traumatic stress disorder.

Now, the Ohio Attorney General is pumping more money into making sure those officers are prepared for similar situations. It doesn't sound like much but $125,000 grant is huge for the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Now they can use those funds to train officers to handle the mentally ill.

"The goal is to teach a foundation of skills," said Elizabeth Atwell, Executive Director of Mental Health America of Northern Kentucky and Southwestern Ohio. Police officers are trained to handle a variety of situations but sometimes they meet people like Christine Malott.

"Right now they got me as borderline personality disordered," said Malott.

She says she's had a few run-ins with police due to her history of mental illness. Overall, she says officers are extremely understanding of her situation but sometimes her manic states appear to be violent causing confusion for cops.

"I was being very verbally aggressive. I was threatening to kick some butt. Five or six police officers but I was threatening and I guess one of them finally got to the point he thought that I had verbally abused them enough so he gave the little code that they do and I ended up at the bottom of a football pile," said Malott.

It's situations like those that brought some cops to a voluntary training seminar to learn more about what mental illness looks like, who is dangerous and who's not.

"Sometimes if you modify things a little bit or you think about things a little bit differently, the outcome can actually be significantly different," said Atwell during her hour long portion of the training seminar.

"They will be able to handle it and really equipped to handle it well," said Atwell.

That is why Malott attends the training too, sharing her story to help police help her when she needs them again.

"Instead of just coming right up and taking it for granted that they can slap the handcuffs on me and drag me away, they talk with me and try to get me to agree to go to the hospital voluntarily instead of making it a forced issue," said Malott.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness says they do training sessions 4-6 times a years for various departments, all of them with the goal of keeping officers and the communities they serve safe.

$30,000 of the grant will help keep mentally ill individuals out of jail and in treatment for their illnesses. $20,000 will be used to produce a documentary about the intersection of law enforcement and the mentally ill.

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