Mental Health and Public Safety

Mental illness and developmental disorders are a growing concern in our nation. How law enforcement and public safety entities react to this challenge is of paramount importance because of the effect it has on so many lives. The first step is having the ability to identify the symptoms of a developmental disorder or mental illness. The deputies on patrol many times will be the first contact with these people in crisis. Being trained in crisis intervention team training (CIT) will give that deputy who first responds to a person exhibiting unusual behavior, a chance to help through an understanding of what they are experiencing. Understanding these symptoms will give us in law enforcement, the best chance to de-escalate a potentially volatile interaction and gives the deputy necessary tools to get the person help and assistance in lieu of arrest. A CIT trained deputy within the corrections environment gets a second “bite at the apple” to identify these symptoms if the person did not exhibit the behaviors to the Patrol deputy. Once a symptom is identified, the person needs to be brought to someone who can provide a formal diagnosis. This is where a team approach will deliver the very best results. As a Sheriff’s Office, we should be the epicenter of the mental health community. Having strong relationships with the County Health Department, the National Alliance of Mental Illness, psychiatric units in local hospitals, charity groups such as DuPage United and Trinity Services will be a milestone in making true progress with mental health in DuPage County. This alliance through law enforcement will divert people with mental illness and developmental disorders away from the correctional facility and into meaningful treatment to give them the best chance to recover and become a productive member of society. The irony here is that this practice will also save DuPage County taxpayers a significant amount of money annually by not incurring the cost of expensive treatment within the jail environment. How many times within government have you seen the right thing to do create and economic benefit? I am the father of a special needs son and if my son ever came into contact with law enforcement during an emergency, he would not react the same way many others would in the same situation. If he was touched or frightened, he may become quickly confrontational. In that situation I would hope that the officer responding was CIT certified so the situation would be calmly resolved without force or arrest. As Sheriff of DuPage County, I pledge to create the safest environment possible for the mentally ill and people with developmental disorders just as I pledged to DuPage United in November of 2015.

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