Police and non-profit response to mental illness

By: Britni McDonald Email
By: Britni McDonald Email
1 in 4 suffer from a mental illness. NAMI says mental health facilities are full, doctors are lacking, and funding is low, so education and awareness is key.

MGN Online

POSTED Monday, May 5, 2014-- 5:40 p.m.

"It's not rare. It's very common. It's hidden."

National Alliance on Mental Illness' executive director, Bonnie Loughran, works closely with those suffering from mental illnesses.

"We never turn people away."

And it's a lot of people-- 1 in 4 suffer from a mental illness. Loughran says mental health facilities are full, doctors are lacking, and funding is low.

"They have a mental illness, they want to get treatment, and there is none," she said.

So, right now, it comes down to awareness and education.

"I do know there's another way to approach people with mental health," said Loughran.

Loughran says in most cases, those with mental illness are not violent, being involved in just four percent of violent crimes.

"People with mental illness generally don't attack unless they feel like they're being attacked," she said.

It's about getting those with mental illness help, and that begins with recognizing signs.

"It's not too hard to identify that someone has a mental health crisis," said Laughran.

In last week's incidents, Londrell Johnson threatened neighbors in the past. He had a record of disorderly conduct over the past decade, on top of a history of mental illness. Dean Caccamo suffered from long standing schizophrenia. But for a real impact, that awareness and education needs to be met with law enforcement.

"What's happened is that the criminal justice system has become unfortunately the defacto mental health providers in many ways," said Madison police captain, Kristen Roman.

It's something Captain Roman says officers are trained in specifically.

"We're able to do a lot of scenario and role based training to have officers practice communication skills and de-escalation and really work toward and resolution with these kind of situations that involves the least amount of force possible," she said. "Sadly sometimes the only option left for them is deadly force."

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