Law enforcement workers often find themselves having to confront citizens who either have a developmental disability, drug addiction or mental illness. However, all officers are not properly trained to handle these situations, and this sometimes can end tragically.

Dr. Cheryll Bowers-Stephens, assistant secretary for the Department of Health and Hospitals-Office of Mental Health, believes training and education for law enforcement personnel is the key to dealing effectively with these situations and avoiding potentially dangerous conflicts.

“Officers will deal with situations involving people with disabilities or mental illness throughout their careers, and we believe that helping them better understand the problems involved and teaching them strategies for approaching these individuals can make the situation safer for all involved,” Bowers-Stephens said.

DHH-OMH, along with the LDH Offices for Addictive Disorders and Citizens with Developmental Disabilities, has partnered with the National Alliance for Mentally Ill-Louisiana to host a one-day conference April 29 in Baton Rouge to discuss this issue.

The conference will provide police officers, sheriffs and other first responders from across the state with various ways to effectively understand and deal with situations involving interactions with someone who may have a mental illness, mental disability or substance abuse disorder.

The conference will take place at the State Police Training Academy from 8 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. Community leaders, law enforcement personnel and other stakeholder agencies from across the state have been invited, and the conference is limited to invited participants.

For more information on law enforcement training or other OMH initiatives, please visit http://www.dhh.louisiana.gov/offices/?ID=62.

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