Bills Would Require Mental Health First Aid Training For Police

Jun 1, 2016

Lawmakers are set to consider bills that would require special training for police officers in mental health and substance abuse.

Sponsors of this bill want all police officers to be certified in what's called mental health first aid. It enables them to recognize the signs of mental illness or substance abuse when responding to complaints and emergencies. And it helps first responders de-escalate a crisis.

The training is also designed to help police officers refer people to community resources when appropriate, rather than arresting them.

The proposed legislation reflects a growing concern that interactions between the police and people with mental illness or substance abuse disorders can quickly become deadly.

Several hundred Rhode Island public safety officers, from a variety of agencies and ranks, have already been trained in mental health first aid, according to former Warwick police captain Joseph Coffey.