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When Police Meet With Mental Illness

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Lt. Curtis Whipple describes the mental health cases keeping police busy.

The role of police is supposed to be straightforward: catch bad guys and protect the people.

But it's seldom that simple, and gets extremely complicated when police have to deal with mentally ill citizens.

Which happens with regularity, and such a confrontation led to shooting death of Brian Babb by Eugene Police in late March.

Babb was a veteran with PTSD, and social worker Becky Higgins was on the phone with him right before his death.

Higgins joins us with insight into police/mental health encounters.

Next, we hear a Medford Police officer's perspective on the issue, one that law enforcement grapples with daily as the mental-health related calls pour in. 

In 2014 alone, MPD carried out 486 mental health holds , (meaning someone was handcuffed and taken to the hospital), and officers responded to 555 actual or attempted suicides, reports Lt. Curtis Whipple, Patrol Division Head and our in-studio guest. 

When police meet with a person in mental crisis, just what is the person in crisis experiencing?

A little knowledge might help. Medford Police are getting the benefit of a training program-- Crisis Intervention Training, or C.I.T.--that not only shows ways to deal with people in mental illness episodes, it includes simulations of the voices some people with schizophrenia hear.

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Geoffrey Riley is a graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism and has hosted the Jefferson Exchange on JPR since 2009. He's been a broadcaster in the Rogue Valley for more than 35 years, working in both television and radio.