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Saturday, April 12, 2014

More on Mental Illness and Policing

Police continue to be the first responders on mental illness issues in our community. They are on the front line. Unfortunately our criminal justice system is too often the place where those suffering from mental illness end up. Our jails are becoming the institutions that the state hospitals used to be. I am amazed at the increase in mental illness-related police calls when I am working the street.
The cuts to state and federal mental illness treatment over the last 30 years are astronomical. Often local government and nonprofits are left to absorb the problems. Police officers are the mental health workers of today. I am concerned any time an officer is sent to a mental illness call instead of a psychologist or mental health worker. The current state requirements for police officer training do not contain any mental illness education.

As I follow this issue nationally, I often read about unfortunate incidents involving police while dealing with a mentally ill individual. There are often two elements associated with the contact that involves lack of training and mental health resources in the community. Recently we found an opportunity to prepare several of our officers as trainers in a national model for police response to people in crisis. In turn, these officers will train our entire department on crisis intervention. This project will be done with our community partners with probation, social services, National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and other service providers in Duluth.  While we have had a select group of officers trained in crisis intervention, this opportunity will allow us to train our entire department.

We also have a very strong collaborative effort between local judges, prosecutors, public defenders, street outreach, police, probation and social services that works to help chronic, mentally ill offenders. This program receives no funding and is the product of dedicated public servants that see the importance of the issue in our community. We are always looking for funding opportunities to improve our crisis response.

We are fortunate to have caring and compassionate police and service providers in our community who make a positive impact for those suffering from this illness and their loved ones.


  1. You may be interested in the Testimony of Mike Biassotti, immed past president of the NYS Chiefs of Police to Congress. His written testimony is here
    his oral testimony is here
    Likewise Judge Liefman was brilliant
    His written testimony is here
    and his oral testimony here

    We advocate for the most seriously ill (not for improved mental health). As such, law enforcement have become our biggest supporters and vice versa. LEOs bear the consequences of a mental health system that prefers to treat the higher functioning and offload the others to criminal justice. Would love to connect and see if there are areas we could coordinate. Thanks.
    DJ Jaffe
    Exec. Dir.
    Mental Illness Policy Org

  2. Beyond saying that I say too much, most officers have been kind and caring and chief Ramsay has even gone out of his way to talk to me by computer. I am schizophrenic effective and have PTSD and sometimes paranoia too. But saying that I say too much alone is based on my mental health status and is very hurtful and unfair. Perhaps your team can coordinate with mental health service providers as well, counselors and pysch workers to help address misconceptions as well as ideas that your officers have about the mentally ill. I would go out of my way to thank who I spoke to within your department and later be sharply criticized for it, for thanking you for being there and without the knowledge that I was mentally ill I do not think I would have been criticized for that. It saddened me greatly and still makes me wonder about your training the issues I addressed were NEVER addressed by officers and I know you exist to protect and serve..... L