RALEIGH, N.C. — With two the state's mental hospitals closing in the next couple of years, the state mental health system will likely transfer many of its services to the local communities.
To get ready, some local police departments are training their officers to better deal with people who have mental problems.
In a pilot program, 23 officers in Wake County will train under a Memphis-based program and form what is called a Crisis Intervention Team. The training could be crucial with the closing of Dorothea Dix Hospital and the John Umstead Hospital in Bunter by 2007. The replacement for both hospitals will be about half the size.
"With (Dorothea) Dix closing we expect our community capacity of the resources to be flooded," said Crystal Farrow of the Wake Human Services Department.
The officers who are participating in the training are from Raleigh and Cary. Mental health experts are predicting that there will be a surge of patients who will not be in facilities after the closing of the two hospitals.
"I'm trying myself -- having been in mental health for 30 years -- to figure out where they're going to put everybody," said Dr. Michael Teague, a psychologist for the Raleigh Police Department.
A spokesperson for the state mental health system says this training is important regardless of the closing. Raleigh and Cary Police expect to have their training and teams in place by July.