Bath Police Department has signed an agreement with National Alliance on Mental Illness Maine to implement a crisis intervention training program for its officers.

The training is used to address the needs of persons with mental health conditions, link them to appropriate resources and divert them from the criminal justice system when appropriate, according to a statement from the city of Bath.

Since Bath began collecting data in November 2020, officers have responded to 40 mental health calls. Bath Police Chief Michael Field said that at least one officer on every one of those calls had mental health training but that, unfortunately, almost all the individuals were transported to the ED due to lack of immediate access to mental health services, according to the city’s statement.

“Last year we had 185 adult mental health calls and 21 adolescent calls,” Field said. “A lot of people are suffering. I think it’s important that our officers know how to handle those calls when they arrive on scene.”

Nine Bath police officers have taken the course, two have taken an eight-hour course in child crisis training, and eight have taken the Maine State Police Academy’s eight-hour mental health training.

The training is also used to develop mental health policies that address how calls involving a person with a mental health condition are handled, and how department-specific data collection will occur. Data collected can be used to identify training needs for officers and funding gaps for the mental health system.

“It’s too bad because the hospitals are so busy – sometimes the person can be waiting to be placed for hours because there are not enough mental health beds available in the state,” Field said. “That can add to the trauma.”

According to Hannah Longley, National Alliance on Mental Illness Maine director of community programs, nationwide, county jails have become the biggest providers of mental health services due a lack of community services. The alliance will use data collected by police departments in Maine to advocate the state Legislature for increased mental health funding and help divert individuals from the criminal justice system.

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