Lake County offering mental health training to officers

WAUKEGAN, Ill. (AP) — Law enforcement officials in Lake County are undergoing training that could be used as a statewide model in Illinois to help officers identify suspects with potential mental health issues.

The training, which is already being offered at College of Lake County, introduces officers to the signs and triggers of illnesses in an effort to diffuse situations that have the potential to turn violent.

"If you don't know about autism, for example — what triggers actions and responses — you may end up shooting or hurting people who have a mental condition," said Lake County Undersheriff Ray Rose. "Our goal is to train all law enforcement in Lake County to be part of our Crisis Intervention Team."

The 23 Lake County sheriff's deputies who have taken the grant-funded classes have found them helpful, Rose said. The Illinois Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board has been watching programs under way in Lake County for possible use as a statewide model, he said.

A large part of crisis intervention training involves learning how to prevent situations from escalating when a person with mental illness commits a lesser crime, such as disturbing the peace, Lake County Health Department Executive Director Tony Beltran told the News-Sun ( ).

The training teaches officers how to recognize people with mental illness, and when to consider taking them to a hospital or treatment center instead of jail, he said.

Law enforcement officials have welcomed the training because it can keep both officers and suspects safe, Beltran said.

"There is a dual benefit. Everyone gets to go home safely that night," he said.

Chicago officials announced late last month that the city's police officers and 911 dispatchers will receive enhanced training on interacting with people in crisis, particularly those with mental illness.


Information from: Lake County News-Sun,