Oneonta police respond to a mental health case every other day on average, the department lieutenant said Monday.
The number of calls is increasing, reflecting a trend and prompting a need for increased training, Lt. Douglas Brenner said.
In 2012, Oneonta police answered 185 mental health calls, and with 197 cases to date, Brenner projected the calls would total about 250 this year.
Brenner attributed the rising numbers not only to more calls but also to more-specific record-keeping and a better-educated population that is more willing to call authorities for help.
Nonetheless, the calls put police into emotionally charged situations when an individual is threatening self-harm or injury to others or is highly intoxicated, Brenner said. No officers have been hurt in the cases this year or last year, he said, but they are responding to more calls without more than the basic instruction provided in the police academy.
“That's a red flag in my book,” Brenner said.
However, to help remedy the situation, eight Oneonta Police Department staffers on Wednesday will attend a Crisis Intervention Training Program presented locally by Tri County Forensic Services of Rehabilitation Support Services and NAMI of Otsego County.
About 40 participants are expected from law enforcement agencies, private security and other groups in Otsego, Delaware, Chenango and Schoharie counties, said Susan Matt, Otsego County director of community services, which includes mental health services. Representatives from Hartwick College and the State University College at Oneonta also have registered for the workshop at Brooks House of Bar-B-Q banquet center in Oneonta, she said.
Workshop topics are communicating with people in acute mental health distress; suicide intervention; state mental hygiene law and how it may apply in the field; and emotional safety and survival, which Matt said is to help responders take care of themselves in reaction to traumatic situations. Matt said RSS is paying the estimated $2,500 cost for the workshop.