Police officers in Kentucky have an increasingly broad range of training that includes responding to situations where someone has mental health issues.
Owensboro Police Department Lt. Chris Castlen is one of the trainers who took part in a recent crisis intervention workshop in Daviess County for about 30 officers from around the region.
Castlen says it’s important for officers to be able to recognize mental health issues and respond in a way that will de-escalate the situation.
“You know, I’ve been a police officer for 20 years and in that time I’ve seen a dramatic increase in the amount of calls where we respond to consumers, as we call people, who are suffering from some sort of mental illness.”
Castlen says police officers spend as much time relating to people who are dealing with some sort of mental illness as they do responding to criminal activity and victims of crime.
The mental health training for law enforcement was held at RiverValley Behavioral Health in Owensboro on Jan. 26. The sessions included a trainer from Louisville Metro Police and the chairwoman of the Owensboro chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
Officer Andrew Hurt was one of about 30 officers from around the region taking part in the training. Hurt says in just the two months that he’s been with the Owensboro Police Department, he’s already encountered a situation where he and his fellow patrol officer had to respond to a person with a mental health issues.
“We were just driving down the road and he just started yelling at us as we were driving. So we pulled over to talk to him. And he was scared, he was telling us not to shoot him. And so we eventually got him calmed down to talk to him. Then he was talking about a whole bunch of delusional ideas and thoughts and what he was seeing.”
Hurt says the man agreed to go to RiverValley Behavioral Health. When he got increasingly agitated, counselors there recommended that he be taken to Western State Hospital in Hopkinsville.
Overall, Hurt says he and his fellow officer spent about seven hours with the man, including the drive to Hopkinsville.