Mental health crisis training making a difference, St. Helens chief says
Local counties are partnering with mental health agencies to train police officers in knowing how to identify and de-escalate situations where people are in crisis.
The training is making a difference.
St. Helens Police Chief Brian Greenway says that out of nearly 600 mental health calls his department got in a year, his officers made less than a dozen arrests.
“What our officers encounter on a routine basis is people in crisis or people needing assistance that might not elevate to a crime, but a mental health issue,” he said.
Greenway says his officers get one to two calls a week related to mental health. He says it’s an important enough topic to share with the community.
Brianne Mares, with Columbia Community Mental Health, briefed residents Wednesday about the training offered officers and deputies throughout the county.
“We’re making that relationship where our officers will talk to Brianne and explain the situation and then there can be future follow-up by the mental health professionals,” said Greenway.
“It’s also good to know that they’re not just going to be taken to jail, that they’re going to be cared for and somebody’s going to be there with them, going to walk it through with them. It’s a big deal,” said Hope Wirta, who lives in Scappoose.
Some residents say their families are personally affected by mental health and that they’re encouraged with the progress being made.
“As we learn to take care of people better and understand there’s stigma behind mental health that doesn’t need to be there. These are people who need help,” said Wirta.
Officials say even though they’ve made progress, there’s more that can be done.
Right now, 80 percent of law enforcement in Columbia County has gone through the crisis training.
They’d like to get that number to 100.