Lauderdale deputies set to train due to mental health budget cuts

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FLORENCE, Ala. (WHNT) - Budget cuts on the state level are placing more and more burdens on local communities.

Some of those cuts are forcing a sheriff’s department to train staff in how to deal with the mentally ill more frequently and for extended amounts of time.

“It’s a problem which is not going away, and we just have to prepare for it and do the best we can to meet that challenge,” stated Lauderdale County Sheriff Rick Singleton.

Recently Singleton had one of his deputies shot by a man with mental health issues while serving mental health commitment papers.

With the number of calls involving mental health on the rise, Singleton said it’s time to get deputies and detention center staff trained.

He has implemented a plan to train those who come into contact with the mentally ill the most.

Sheriff Singleton said the number of inmates this detention center sees with mental illnesses is staggering. Of the 250 on the daily roster, he estimates about half of those have some sort of mental illness or have dealt with it in the past.

And with fewer state beds available for the mentally ill to use, Singleton said more people who need help are ending up in jail, a place not designed to be a treatment facility.

“People with mental health issues who go to jail usually one of two things is going to happen,” explained Singleton. “They are going to be taken advantage of by other prisoners, or they’re going to become agitated and start fights.”

A situation Singleton and other law enforcement didn’t ask for, but they have to deal with nonetheless.

A group of Lauderdale County deputies have gone through the first phase of mental health training this week.

Until now, Florence Police Department served as the only group of officers trained to deal with mental health issues in Lauderdale County.

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