Law Enforcement Prepared to Help Mentally Ill

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Meridian, Miss. Before May of this year, local law enforcement agencies weren't exactly equipped to handle individuals with a mental conditions. But not anymore. The Meridian Police Department, Lauderdale County Sheriff's Department, Weems Mental Health Center, and Central Mississippi Residential Center are now a team.

"Allows law enforcement now to have a location to carry a person who is in a crisis, who is a danger to themselves or others. And to remove them from that place of danger to others or themselves," Chief Deputy Ward Calhoun explained. "And to a place where they can receive assistance and hopefully get better."

That place is CMRC in Newton. Calhoun says one of the good things about all of this has been that money from two separate grants was made available for officials to take their time and properly plan before implementing the team.

"So that we've really studied our situation, studied the dynamics of our community, the resources that we had, and we're really finding that we're on track with where we thought we would be in terms of the numbers of people that we're taking to CMRC in Newton and the number of referrals," Chief Deputy Calhoun said.

It wasn't until July 2010 when Calhoun says the law changed and allowed officers to take someone into custody and to hold them for an assessment. The officer must be CIT trained to do this, though.

"So while we were doing the training, the officers were understanding more about the mentally ill and those in mental health crisis. They were getting that training, we really couldn't implement the program fully because we had nowhere to carry them," Calhoun said.

A CIT officer is now on the clock each hour of the day.