Police shootings call mental health reform

MIAMI TOWNSHIP, Ohio – As Miami City Police approached the scene of a shooting on May 20, Chief Mike Mills said images from the officers’ body’s actions revealed that they expected another outcome.


What you need to know

  • Miami Township police say shooting dead in mental health crisis on May 20
  • According to reports, 22% of those shot dead by the police were mentally ill
  • The region’s mental health services train police in escalation and crisis response
  • Cincinnati has a mobile crisis team to help police respond to mental health emergencies
  • Cincinnati wants to pilot a program to send mental health professionals to nonviolent emergencies

A gun was fired at the site of a woman outside a block of flats in the air. The images showed agents trying to de-escalate by asking the woman to drop her gun. Instead, he shot them and the police shot him twice. The woman later died from her injuries.

According to Mills, officers knew the woman because she had been called to a previous mental health emergency and sent for treatment. Mills said all officers who responded on Friday were off duty.

Similar shootings often occur across the country. The Washington Post database, which records all police shootings that have been dead since 2015, reported that 22% of those deaths were due to a mental illness.

A large area of ​​Cincinnati has been working on this issue for decades, working with UC Health’s Mobile Crisis Response Team for nearly 20 years and directing people to mental health services through service calls and court and prison systems.

In July, the city will also run a pilot program that sends non-armed mental health professionals to mental health calls.

Diane Wright, with Greater Cincinnati Behavioral Health Services, has been on both sides of the equation, helping officials train in crisis intervention and managing referrals to the service.

“Our hope is that we are coordinating with these organizations so that someone can connect with us and start treatment,” he said.

To find out what is expected in the area, Wright said regional department officials will come to the clinic and take social workers and other behavioral health workers as part of training to intervene in the crisis.

“It’s not necessarily that they would do what they thought, try to get rid of someone who is very upset or talk to someone who is suicidal, so that can be more effective if you include behavioral health workers,” he said.

According to Mills, all of his Miami Township officers have received similar mental health crisis and escalation training.

Linda Gallagher, vice president of mental health and addiction services at the Hamilton County Mental Health and Recovery Board, believes there should be no restrictions on mental health training, especially since those with a mental illness are often the ones most in need. protection.

“He is likely to be the victim of a crime,” he said. “They are often more at risk for themselves than anyone else.”

To support mental services across the region, the commission is funding crisis stabilization services across the region, including a mobile crisis team. Gallagher said the commission’s goal is to prevent police emergencies before they happen.

“People are healed, and they can receive treatment and be healed and lead a very fruitful life,” he said.

In the Miami Township shooting, Mills said the intervention to that point had been unsuccessful. She said the woman denied previous referrals to treatment and did not show any behavior that would require mandatory admission to a hospital or mental health center.

Gallagher said, unfortunately, this is common with references to mental health. There is no sure way to know when a crisis can worsen without intervention and until then patients have refused treatment.

“They’ll be there when they don’t think they’re ready or scared or maybe when they feel hopeless,” he said.

In most cases, Gallagher said the best option is to leave the door open, keep the client engaged, and continue to provide access to support and treatment, believing it will be enough to provide a rescue in the event of a future emergency.

“Constant commitment, constant support, constant approach to individuals, because in those moments they can very well say yes,” he said.

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