York Co. deputies train in dealing with mental illness

York Co. deputies train in dealing with mental illness

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by AMY COWMAN / NBC Charlotte

Bio | Email | Follow: @amywcnc

WCNC.com

Posted on February 1, 2013 at 3:56 PM

Updated Tuesday, Oct 22 at 9:44 PM

YORK COUNTY, S.C. -- York County law enforcement is taking big strides to train officers on dealing with mentally ill people in the community.  From diffusing a possibly violent situation to helping someone get medical attention, they’re hoping the training comes in good use on the streets.

Is this woman just angry, or is she also suffering from a mental illness?  It's something York County officers are learning to look out for to use for real on the streets.
 
"My job is not just to go out and take someone to jail.  It really is to help people and if this person needs some help I need to know how to communicate with them,” said Deputy Jenny Forsythe with the York County Sheriff’s Office.
 
The York County Sheriff's Office brought in a Crisis Intervention team to train officers in dealing with people with mental illness so they can diffuse a possibly violent situation.
 
"How's the best way to calm them down? How's the best way to get them to some resources," said NAMI Crisis Intervention Director Fred Riddle.
 
They even have a virtual simulator to show officers what it looks and feels like to be schizophrenic and it's not just the officers on the streets.  York County 911 operators also participated.
 
"So we can get a better understanding of what we need to find out for our officers and also how to deescalate some of the problems with mental illnesses before officers get there," said York Co 911 operator Travis Rousey.
 
Mental health officials say it's needed now more than ever.
 
"Law enforcement is really on the front lines now dealing with people with mental illness because of budget cuts the South Carolina Department of Mental Health has received," said Riddle.
 
Deputies say this week has definitely changed their perspective.
 
“I've thought of some of the people I've dealt with on the road and have thought this might have been the underlying issue there," said Deputy Forsythe.
 
The officers went through a 40-hour course all week to receive certification. All courses are certified by the South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy and are free to the departments.

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