LAKEWOOD, Ohio — During the winter months, the Lakewood Police Department has been busy with an influx of calls involving people experiencing from mental illnesses.
“We’re responding more and more to calls where the person is in a crisis or the person has created a disturbance out on the street, in parks, on sidewalks in stores,” said the administrative Captain of Lakewood police department, Gary D. Stone.
Those calls are averaging around two dozen each week. So, many officers are now training with the crisis intervention team (CIT) to better prepare them for mental health calls.
“More and more of us are being trained in this CIT program. I believe we have another group that is going to be scheduled within the next couple of months,” said Stone.
But that training doesn’t decrease the incidents or solve the problem.
“I see more and more of the same people coming in and out of the jail, in and out of our calls, things like that,” said Captain Stone.
So when an officer responds to an issue involving a person suffering from mental illness, they try to de-escalate the situation then offer resources for help. They can also offer a call the Cuyahoga County Diversion Center.
“The Diversion Center was originally started for law enforcement that when they ran into an individual who had signs or symptoms of a mental illness or an addiction issue and they had low level nonviolent offense,” said Scott Osiecki, Chief Executive Officer of the Adams Board, which stands for alcohol, drug addiction and mental health services board of Cuyahoga County.
Once they call the center, they do a mental health screening over the phone and decide what the next steps are, but officers can’t force an individual into treatment and they don’t take walk-ins.
“So important thing to point out is that the Diversion Center is strictly voluntary, right. So, the individual with a mental illness with addiction would want to go,” said Scott.
Unless they are a harm to themselves or others, officers would bring them to jail or the emergency room. But more than that Stone says all they can do is provide resources.
“I think the individual needs to follow through with their required treatment. Take advantage of the different agencies that are available here in the county,” said Captain Stone.
Which Scott says there’s a lot of, but it takes utilizing them to work.
“So, we just want to say to police please encourage the individuals to receive the treatment. But once again, if it’s an offense, a criminal offense that’s violent the alternative is taking that individual to jail,” said Scott.
For more information on mental health resources click here.
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