[Daily Jefferson County Union] Chapter 51: Fort Atkinson Police join international pledge to better help people with mental health disorders

An article in the Daily Jefferson County Union reports that police departments nationwide are spending more and more time responding to calls involving people affected by mental health disorders. This is especially true in Fort Atkinson due to the city’s assortment of group homes and community-based residential facilities. Between 5 percent and 15 percent of all police calls involve a person with a mental health disorder. 

Fort Atkinson Police Chief Adrian Bump said that locally, the issue isn’t the percentage of calls that deal with mental health, but, rather, how long they can take: handling a call of a person who might be a danger to him or herself or others can take six hours of officer time under the best circumstances; in many other cases, it can take 12 to 17 hours.

As a way to be better equipped to handle these calls, the Fort Atkinson Police Department recently completed the One Mind Campaign, a program through the International Association of Chiefs of Police. The One Mind Campaign is a program in which police departments pledge to implement four practices to better help people affected by mental illness over one to three years, including establishing a partnership with a community mental health organization, training sworn officers and non-sworn staff in mental health awareness and providing crisis intervention training.

The curriculum focuses on individuals with mental health disorders such as depression or intellectual disability and includes education on various deescalation techniques, as well as live roleplay scenarios of officers responding to persons who need mental health assistance.

Along with the benefit of keeping costs down, the combination of crisis intervention training and community partnerships allows police to prevent situations from ending with violence, according to Dr. Katherine Drechsler, an assistant professor of social work at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. “It definitely helps the situation deescalate,” Drechsler said. “Improves the confidence of police officers.” Fort Atkinson has trained 16 of its 20 officers up and down the chain of command, from Chief Bump to his captains, lieutenants and detectives.

Drechsler, who spent 30 years as a social worker helping individuals with mental health disorders, said she believes these types of steps benefit both the police and the people they’re trying to help.

“It’s truly an excellent move in the right direction for individuals affected by mental health disorders,” Drechsler said. “It’s definitely an asset for the community.”

Read the whole story by Henry Redman from the Daily Jefferson County Union at http:// https://www.dailyunion.com/news/chapter-fort-atkinson-police-join-international-pledge-to-better-help/article_3c4e5d76-f277-54e6-b767-2a35063a0766.html

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