SAN ANTONIO – The San Antonio Police Department is hosting a special course this week, hoping to train officers from around the country on how to appropriately respond to someone with a mental health issue.
The course, offered to law enforcement officers and other first responders, hopes to give attendees a better understanding of how to identify and handle a person in mental crisis.
“People with an illness such as bipolar, schizophrenic, maybe they're suicidal or suffering from depression,” said Jon Sabo, a mental health officer with SAPD. “When officers respond to someone in crisis, unlike years back, when we immediately just put them in handcuffs and took them to jail, now we talk to these people, we calm them down, we get them into services, as opposed to taking them to jail.”
Instructors say, teaching active listening skills and becoming better communicators are key in this course.
“The base level of it, it's just another tool in our toolbox, but we want to make it so much more than that,” said Michael Harkrider, a police officer from Iowa City, Iowa. “We want to start reaching what San Antonio has been doing, for persons with mental illness and things like that.”
The course is offered four times a year to officers and other first responders around the country at no charge.