Public Safety

Linn County Sheriff's Office joins campaign to better address mental health issues

A Linn County Sheriff's Office squad car. (file photo)
A Linn County Sheriff's Office squad car. (file photo)

The Linn County Sheriff’s Office has another tool in its toolbox when it comes to responding to calls involving people with mental health issues.

According to a news release, the sheriff’s office recently pledged to join the One Mind Campaign, part of an initiative started by the International Association of Chiefs of Police, a 30,000-member professional association that provides training, technical assistance and recruitment services for law enforcement agencies.

Mental illness has become an increasingly common focus for law enforcement officers as they respond more frequently to situations involving people with mental health issues. Some agencies, according to the release, estimate as many as 20 percent of their calls for service involve someone dealing with mental health issues.

Through the One Mind Campaign, law enforcement agencies agree to implement specific training and policies to better address calls involving people in crisis. These practices include establishing a clearly defined and sustainable partnership with a community mental health organization, developing a model policy to guide how officers respond to people affected by mental illness, training and certifying staff in mental health awareness and relevant first-aid practices, and providing crisis intervention team training to staff.

Each agency is given 12 to 36 months to implement the practices, according to the release.

To meet these guidelines, the Linn County Sheriff’s Office is partnering with local mental health organization Foundation 2 and applied for federal grant money to embed a Foundation 2 crisis counselor within the patrol division to respond to scenes where deputies are dealing with people in crisis.

Additionally, the sheriff’s office is rewriting its policy manuals for law enforcement and corrections.

Sheriff Brian Gardner said all deputies, Linn County corrections officers, correctional nurses and communications operators will receive crisis intervention training.

The training teaches officials how to properly respond to calls that involve people with mental health disorders and includes education on various de-escalation techniques.

“It is imperative that we improve our deputies’ ability to recognize the symptoms of a mental health crisis, enhance their confidence in addressing such an emergency, and reduce inaccurate beliefs about mental illness,” Gardner said. “It has been found that after completing (crisis intervention training) orientation, employees felt encouraged to interact with people suffering a mental health crisis and to delay their typical ‘rush to resolution.’”

In Iowa, only three other law enforcement agencies have taken the One Mind Campaign pledge, according to the release: the Cedar Rapids Police Department, the Clinton Police Department and the Iowa State University Department of Public Safety.

l Comments: (319) 398-8238;