Law enforcement trained to handle mental health crisis calls

DUNCAN, OK (KSWO) - In a crisis situation involving someone with mental health problems, law enforcement are usually first on the scene. Stephens County Sheriff's Office hosted a training that would allow officers to better handle these incidents.

A new report from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the Oklahoma suicide rate increased by 30 percent since 1999. But Sheriff Wayne McKinney said that data just proves this training is needed more than ever.

McKinney brought the Crisis Intervention Training to the county after attending the class years ago in El Reno.

"We were so impressed with it that when we got back we are going to make our entire department up to this level," McKinney said.

Officers from all over the state gathered at the Red River Technology Center this week. They learned how to put themselves in the shoes of people with a mental illness, and to use their words instead of force to stop the person from harming themselves or others.

"He has to understand what that person is actually going through," McKinney said. "Back 30 years ago, it probably wouldn't have been handled that way. You put handcuffs on him, arrest him and put him in jail."

McKinney said he has seen this training work in real situations like back in 2014.

"A distraught young lady went into a church with a firearm threatening to take her life," McKinney said.

She surrendered outside the church after long discussions with a deputy who received that special training.

"We've used it and like I said when you go, it's a big asset for all law enforcement," McKinney said.

The Sheriff is hoping to get 100 percent of his staff certified, including deputies and detention center officers so they can protect themselves, the community and hopefully save a life.

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