Mental health cuts affecting area law enforcement agencies - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

Mental health cuts affecting area law enforcement agencies

LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) -

As the nation tries to come to terms with the tragedy in Connecticut, there's a lot of discussion about mental health issues.

The gunman had a history of mental illness, as did some of the gunmen in other mass killings.

But dealing with the mentally ill costs money, money that's being cut in Louisiana. Those cuts are now affecting law enforcement.

"That's one of the deals that we deal with out in the street, because we don't have the services or houses to take these individuals when they're in crisis," said Lieutenant David Anders with the Lake Charles Police Department. 

He said cuts are making big changes compared to years past, in turn making the job for law enforcement officers a little more difficult.

"If we don't have some place to house them, to get them off the streets, to get them the medical assistance and the treatment that they need, it's going to be a revolving door," said Anders. "We'll bring them in. They'll treat them for two or three days, and then they'll release them. Whereas in the past, years ago, when they were released, they would release them into some type of temporary housing facility where they would continue the treatment and services." 

Until 2006, area officers weren't trained in depth in dealing with the mentally ill. But now, they are thanks to the Crisis Intervention Team (CIT).

"The CIT class provides 40 hours of specific training on mental health related issues," said Anders. "If we can resolve one incident without deadly force, then the program is a success. And we've been able to do that throughout the years since 2006 when our first class started."

The training teaches officers what to look for and how to handle certain situations. In all cases, officers must determine whether it's a true criminal case or the individual needs medical help.

"If it's something we need to make an arrest on, then by all means we will make that arrest," said Anders. "But if it's something that's not, and we can get that individual the psychological help that they need, then that's the first priority that we need to do and we will do."

Lieutenant Anders said eventually all officers in the area will go through the CIT training.
As of now, he's planning to hold the next class in March.

Copyright 2012 KPLC All rights reserved.
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