Police depts. receive mental health training grants

BOSTON (WWLP) – More and more people with mental illnesses are finding themselves incarcerated, and mental health advocates say more police training will help patients avoid arrest and find help.

Two Western Massachusetts police departments have received grants to better educate officers on mental illness – an effort that mental health advocates say will create a jail diversion.

Westfield and Holyoke Police Departments have signed onto receiving “Crisis Intervention” training. The program teaches police officers how to handle a person with mental illness and how to de-escalate situations so that arrests may be avoided. The program is offered by the National Alliance on Mental Health and they believe the training will allow the police to better assist people with mental illnesses.

Laurie Martinelli of the National Alliance on Mental Illness told 22News, “We feel that if we train police officers more that these people would be diverted. That’s why we call it ‘jail diversion’; diverting them from the criminal justice system and diverting them from jail, and finding them more appropriate treatment for people with mental illness.”

The Massachusetts Department of Mental Health provided an $80,000 grant for police departments to receive Crisis Intervention training.

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