HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - The Huntsville Police Department is training officers on how to best handle mental health calls. Twenty officers will go through training in February.
Lt. Jon Ware has been with the Huntsville Police Department for twenty years. As one of the first two mental health officers trained for the department, he hopes their work is reversing the stigma surrounding mental illness.
"It may not be perfect, it may not be well funded, but it is out there and we will be glad to help you," said Lt. Jon Ware.
The crisis intervention training Huntsville Police receive has national standards through the Department of Justice.
"The biggest thing they are trained on is identifying that there may be a mental health issue going on. And then they are specifically trained on de-escalation, specifically dealing with a mental health patient," said Lt. Ware.
Ware says that helping the mentally ill find needed resources is a link that was missing before they started training officers in crisis intervention.
"Before we started doing this there were programs and agencies that we had no idea were out there but when we started gathering partners and more and more people came to the table we were like, I could have referred this person to this agency, I could have taken them here, I could have called this person," said Lt. Ware.
Ware says at the end of the day, their goal is to help those with mental illness and not just place them in jail.
If a person is a danger to themselves or others, one of the seven mental health officers trained through the probate court can be called for back up.
"That allows them to then refer that patient or those people to hospitals for further evaluation," said Lt. Ware.
Ware says he wants people with mental illness to realize Huntsville has a wealth of resources and to not be ashamed to find help.
The Huntsville Police Department says this is a voluntary program. The department plans to continue Crisis Intervention Training classes until all officers who want to be trained have been through the program.