Lane County is trying something new to increase police officers’ awareness of potential mental health issues encountered in situations they are called to address.
Lane County Behavioral Health is creating a medical database through the state-run Law Enforcement Data System. It would take voluntarily submitted forms from those with mental health problems in the hopes of reducing repeat arrests, while steering people towards mental health services rather than jail.
When individuals are having a mental health crisis, Lane County Health and Human Services Director Karen Gaffney told the Register Guard, “That makes it really challenging for that interaction to go well. It creates confusion in the moment. It’s traumatic for the individual in that situation, and it’s costly to public safety and first responders, and the mental health system ultimately.”
Those who choose to participate are asked to give identifying information like names and physical descriptions, along with specifics about the person’s condition. They are also asked to include the best strategies for engaging with them should they be going through a crisis, and what can trigger a crisis, including whether they suffer from PTSD, are hard of hearing, have certain phobias, or any other relevant information. An emergency contact is also requested.
Gaffney compares registering with the database to wearing a medical emergency bracelet.
“This system,” she said, “is the equivalent of that for people who are in a mental health crisis, who may find themselves in an interaction with law enforcement and they’re not in a position because of their crisis to be able to address that.”
By Andy Hahn