WASHINGTON -- U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and U.S. Representative Anthony Gonzalez (R-OH-16) today introduced the Law Enforcement Training For Mental Health Crisis Response Act of 2019, bipartisan legislation to improve police training. Brown introduced the Senate bill with Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK), and Gonzalez introduced companion legislation in the House with Rep. Kendra Horn (D-OK-5).
The Law Enforcement Training For Mental Health Crisis Response Act would:
“When our law enforcement officers have the training and resources they need to respond to mental health crises, we can better ensure the safety of our first responders, individuals in crisis, and members of our communities,” said Brown.
“Our police officers are faced with an increasing number of calls related to mental health issues and people suffering from opioid abuse and addiction. Providing our local law enforcement with better resources and training to handle these situations will help to keep both our police force and our community safe,” said Rep. Gonzalez. “I am honored to help introduce this bill during National Police Week and to support our local law enforcement as they put their lives on the line to protect and serve our community every day.”
The bipartisan bill would provide $15 million in funding over 3 years through the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to help train police on how to best interact with individuals with mental health illness and resolve and de-escalate any potential issues that may arise. The goal of the bill is to reduce the number of law enforcement officers and individuals who are killed or injured during situations in which mental health plays a role.
“The job of a police officer is difficult and dangerous. When our officers encounter persons suffering a mental health crisis, the level of danger increases, not only for the police officers but for the community they serve,” said Copley Township Chief of Police Michael Mier. “Training to deal with these problems will help protect our officers when they encounter these difficult situations on the street and help protect those persons who suffer from mental health and substance abuse issues.”
“Training is important to make sure our law enforcement officers are prepared for any situation. I believe Behavioral Crisis Response Training has helped deputies in Wayne County to deal with various mental health crisis situations they encounter on a daily basis,” said Wayne County Sheriff Travis Hutchinson. “In 2019 so far, Wayne County has handled a total of 72 calls for service regarding mental health issues, including drug overdoses, attempted suicides, suicide threats, and basic mental health complaints. In a county the size of Wayne, this number continues to increase each year. This training reminds officers to slow down and take the time to handle these situations at a pace fitting for those who are experiencing these crises. Building a good rapport with people can also be beneficial to future encounters.”
“Training is a key component to make sure our law enforcement officers are prepared to serve their respective communities in any situation. I appreciate Congressman Gonzalez and Senator Brown taking an interest in behavioral health crisis response training. The training they are sponsoring will provide an additional tool to our responding officers as they seek peaceful resolutions to the behavioral health crisis that they are facing on a daily basis," said Medina County Sheriff Tom Miller.