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IACP Quick Take: Oregon's approach to addressing mental health and crisis response

The state’s success is based on law enforcement partnerships that have led to successful collaborations in care


By Nancy Perry, PoliceOne Editor in Chief

PHILADELPHIA — More than four million residents call Oregon home. Sadly thousands within the state live with some form of mental illness. Police have been interacting with people in crisis for decades but never before has there been so much attention to how, when and why.

The Oregon Association of Chiefs of Police and the Oregon State Sheriffs' Association formed a work group to develop a statewide policy framework that can be scaled for use by a 2-person, 20-person or 600-person law enforcement agency. The work group also developed training recommendations for basic academy, in-service and crisis intervention team (CIT) training.

Eriks Gabliks, director, Oregon Department of Public Safety Standards and Training, leads the panel discussion. (Photo/Nancy Perry)
Eriks Gabliks, director, Oregon Department of Public Safety Standards and Training, leads the panel discussion. (Photo/Nancy Perry)

At the 124th annual International Association of Chiefs of Police Conference, members of the work group outlined their policy framework and detailed how agencies could deploy similar best practices.

Panelists

  • Eriks Gabliks, director, Oregon Department of Public Safety Standards and Training
  • Troy Clausen, undersheriff, Marion County Sheriff's Office
  • Jim Ferraris, chief of police, City of Woodburn Police Department
  • Kevin Rau, Crisis Intervention Program training coordinator, Oregon Department of Public Safety Standards and Training

Memorable Quotes

“If we don’t have collaboration, we just end up bringing individuals in crisis to our jails, which were never designed to be psychiatric crisis centers.” – Troy Clausen

“We needed to develop a best practice document that any agency could take and expand to their needs.” – Kevin Rau

“A key strategy is partnership with the mental health community. None of this can be done alone.” – Kevin Rau

“Are we putting police officers through crisis training that is based on real-life circumstances?” – Kevin Rau

Effective response strategies

The panelists suggested agencies take the following steps when addressing mental health and crisis response.

  1. Partner with the mental health community. “The entire nation is asking us, as professionals, to deal with this problem, but it will take a village to help with this issue,” Clausen said. The success of Oregon’s approach is based on the partnerships law enforcement has put in place, which have led to successful collaborations in care.
  2. Work directly with emergency hospitals. Law enforcement must work with ER staff and the ED director and have a liaison identified within the LE community for outreach, Rau said.
  3. Develop a strong commitment to law enforcement liaison with mental health community.
  4. Provide training for the entire public safety system (LE, EMS/fire, dispatch, DA, mental health, city/county leaders).
  5. Deploy and train specialized officers and mental health counterparts. Grant money has been used to pair up a deputy or officer with a mental health expert to form a Mobile Crisis Team unit that can respond to mental health calls when requested by a patrol officer.
  6. Use specialized non-police responders. Non-police responders are also being utilized like fire and EMS. Such response also needs to be paired with diversion to outpatient treatment of some kind, notes Rau.
  7. Use of less-lethal tools. “We needed to look at the right training for the use of less-lethal tools with individuals suffering a mental health crisis and training the right way with bean bag guns, TASERs and other tools available,” Rau said.
  8. Develop more mental health-centric scenario training.
  9. Work with stakeholders.
  10. Provide outpatient treatment.
  11. Partner with crisis hotlines. Police officers and hostage negotiators spend time manning crisis lines so they can get experience talking to these people. This offers the officers the chance to get training and improve their communication skills while actually helping save lives.
  12. Increase the amount of 24/7 Crisis Response Sites.
  13. Establish jail-based diversion.
  14. Utilize mental health courts.

For more information, visit the Oregon Knowledge Bank

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