When someone is experiencing a mental health crisis, police are often among the first groups to respond. The Boise Police Department (BPD) has made an effort to get all its officers trained in how to de-escalate a potentially violent situation and connect those in crisis with the right professional.
As of last fall, the department had fully trained a quarter of its officers in crisis-intervention.
Boise Police Chief Bill Bones says his department is going a step further to respond to this issue. Bones -- who has been in the job of police chief for a little over a week -- says they are in the process of hiring someone to fill BPD's first mental health coordinator position.
Speaking during a public forum at KBSX earlier this week, he said the person in this role will help bridge the gap between people who need help and the officers who might come to their aid.
"Because police officers – we meet the people who need the [mental health] services," says Bones. "Whether it’s somebody that’s homeless and suffering, a veteran, whether this weird call we go to, or somebody that’s acting a little strange on the street – we meet those people. And if we can get them tied into the [mental health] services they need, we can prevent them from ever getting to that crisis downstream. [We] can’t prevent 100 percent but we can be very effective over time."
Bones says the department is still interviewing candidates for the mental health coordinator position, and that the new hire will be a "civilian." The police chief expects the new hire to be on the job in the next 45 days.
Find Frankie Barnhill on Twitter @FABarnhill
Copyright 2015 Boise State Public Radio