Wednesday, September 15, 2010
In many cities around the world the mentally ill in crisis come into contact with Law Enforcement at sometime in their lives some repeatedly. At issue most police officers only receive 30 hours on average of mental health training. For the person in crisis and many already in a state of paranoia and or psychosis these ofter end in physical injury and sometimes death. For the Law Enforcement officers frustration, feelings of helplessness and lack of education can lead to personal injury and personal psychological effects.
Many people with illness have a mistrust of the police, because of perception and or previous contact, so what is a police department and health authority to do? well he in Vancouver, BC Canada we have Car 87 /88.
Car 87 was started as a joint effort with the Vancouver Health Authority to put into service a patrol care specializing in Mental Health Crisis. The car is manned with a specially trained police officer and a specially trained nurse who wear plain clothes and responds to mental health crisis that may need law enforcement assistance. The cars both 87 / 88 can be dispatched by doctors or workers who are concerned that their client may be in immediate need of mental health assistance, finding people who have left hospital without permission or from other officer and 911 if there is reason to think the person involved may be in crisis.
While the police may not be perfect in dealing daily with citizens struggling with mental illness Vancouver's Car 87/88 is a great model for other jurisdictions globally to make the interact with police and citizens with mental illness a safer more human experience. It also allows the person suffering to feel like they are getting care and not being harassed for being ill. In struggling neighborhoods foot patrolled community policing have also done well to reduce stigma that young officers may have as they get to know the people living in the community and interact with them daily.
Stigma in Law Enforcement about people living with mental illness can be reduced by furtherer education education in the academies and continued education while serving. Mix that with services like Car 87/88 and we are on our way to making contact by police, courts, and people living with mental illness healthier.