For the first time ever, the Tyler Police Department partnered with the National Alliance on Mental Illness for a two-day advocacy training earlier this week to raise awareness and educate law enforcement on the Mental Health.
The goal of the initiative was to provide better outcomes for people with mental illness, their families and law enforcement as the needs increase in Tyler and Smith counties.
âWe would like to thank NAMI and the instructors for coming to the police department and coordinating this training,â said Andy Erbaugh, public information manager for the Tyler Police Department.
The Tyler Police Department held three sessions over a two-day period, Monday and Tuesday.
Certified Professional Advisor Keren Acuna said NAMI Tyler and the Tyler Police Department have come together to create a mental health initiative to provide officers with an understanding of mental illness and resources to create a better cross-service outcome. order and those affected by mental illness.
NAMI, a national grassroots organization that focuses on advocacy for mental illness, has heard stories from people who think they don’t have many options.
âWe hear from the community and our goal is to create better outcomes in their interactions with those affected by mental illness. We want to educate our officers more in Tyler, âAcuna said.
In a board meeting with NAMI President Tyler, Sandra Brazil-Hamilton, Acuna said she brought up the idea, saying there was a need within the community and that many pressure was exerted on the officers.
“We want to bridge the gap between law enforcement and all they have to carry, and those affected by mental illness and suffering, and family members of those in pain,” said Acuna.
Brazil-Hamilton encouraged the idea. Representatives of NAMI Tyler arranged a meeting with Tyler’s Police Department chief Jimmy Toler, who Acuna said immediately agreed with the initiative.
âIt was very proactive, I really wanted to move forward on how we can help each other in this mental health crisis that we are really going through,â Acuna said.
Acuna said mental illness is interesting because it’s something we don’t see.
âIf someone breaks their arm, it’s visible. With sanity, it’s invisible. In a way, we can’t see someone suffering from anxiety and depression all the time. It’s not something that we automatically know you have a broken arm, for example, âshe said.
Acuna said that one in five people struggle with a mental illness and it takes 11 years to receive treatment.
” It’s long. We can’t imagine someone waiting 11 years to check on a broken bone, âAcuna said.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic began in 2020, Acuna said mental health professionals see more people struggling with depression, anxiety and acute mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.
“In Texas we rank the lowest mental health services, which is very sad because it means we then have more limited resources on hand to provide relief to those affected by this disease,” she said. declared.
Acuna said that although they saw an increase in mental illness after the onset of the pandemic, NAMI aimed to partner with local agencies ahead of COVID-19.
She said it’s a lot of pressure to put on law enforcement, but there is a duty to get all the education they can get to help provide support and assistance to those who are. suffer.
From the advocacy training, Acuna said NAMI hopes to see more empathy from law enforcement officers who respond to a call for people who may be experiencing a psychotic break. Since Texas has a low level of mental health resources, it is difficult to know where to call for help for people who need to be hospitalized.
âWe hope to be a resource for law enforcement (and) let them know who they can try to connect with. The most important thing is to provide empathy and some understanding when responding to these calls and how they can defuse certain situations where the person they are responding to is not in good shape, âAcuna said. âOverall, I hope that someday a clinician will come out with law enforcement to answer these calls when someone has a psychotic crisis or is in a very emotional situation so that we can support each other. ”
NAMI National has successfully established partnerships with other cities, such as San Antonio, Fort Worth and Houston.
NAMI offers free support groups for family members of people with mental illness, as well as other free community services, such as educational classes, available in English and Spanish.
âWe want the community to know that we are here. Our efforts are again to continue to develop this initiative with law enforcement and hopefully the Sheriff’s Department as well. So that we can do all we can about mental health, âAcuna said.