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Moore Officers Learning to Treat Mentally Ill in Crises

By learning how to approach the mentally ill, Moore County law enforcement officers hope to be able to avoid a potentially deadly tragedy.

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PINEHURST, N.C. — Moore County law officers are training in how to approach and handle  people with mental illness, hoping to avoid situations in which a mentally ill person becomes violent and officers must use force to protect themselves or others.

Fifteen police officers and sheriff's deputies will form the county's first Crisis Intervention Team. They will be among the first ones called when a person suffers a psychotic episode.

"It's knowing how to talk with somebody, develop a plan and get that compliance from them," Sgt. Bob Cardwell, with the Moore County Sheriff's Office, said.

Officers get 40 hours of training in a weeklong program administered by the National Alliance of Mental Illness. They learn the basics of psychology and how to talk to people who are suicidal or dangerously delusional.

"If you take the wrong approach, if you go in as the tough guy, then a lot of times, people react," Cardwell said.

Crisis Intervention team members will be able to let people talk to a doctor – even one in another city, via teleconferencing.

Cardwell said his experience in law enforcement has taught him the need for such training.

"I've probably dealt with any kind of depression, suicide, bipolar psychotic state that you can imagine," Cardwell said.

Several counties, including Wake and Durham, have certified emergency training teams.

Laura Gingerich, of Pinehurst, recalled when her 22-year-old son, who has a mental illness, could have been helped by such a team. He called her from jail and said he was "alone, scared, cold," Gingerich said.

"I remember calling the hospital and saying, 'My son is in jail, and he needs to be in a hospital,'" she said.

Gingerich praised the training that Moore law enforcement officers were getting.

"It is also going to help with their compassion, their level of knowledge," Gingerich said. "This is a person who's psychotic. This could be my son; this could be my daughter."


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