Oklahoma organizations announce support for US bill that would train police on mental health crises

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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Several local organizations are throwing their support behind a bipartisan piece of legislation introduced by a congresswoman from Oklahoma.

On Tuesday, more than a dozen Oklahoma organizations and lawmakers publicly endorsed criminal justice reform legislation that was introduced by Congresswoman Kendra Horn.

House Resolution 2698, known as The Law Enforcement Training for Mental Health Crisis Response Act, provides funding for law enforcement training to recognize, deescalate, and respond to individuals experiencing a mental health crisis.

“It is vitally important we have mental health training for people interacting with the public,” said Garland Pruitt, President of the NAACP Oklahoma City branch. “They are there to protect and serve; this training is needed, necessary, and long overdue.” 

So far, the following organizations have endorsed the legislation:

  • NAACP Oklahoma City branch
  • Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform (OCJR)
  • National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Oklahoma
  • Palomar Family Justice Center
  • Oklahoma Policy Institute
  • Oklahoma City Housing Authority
  • Oklahoma City Police Department
  • Midwest City Police Department
  • NorthCare
  • Cedar Ridge Behavioral Health
  • Oklahoma County Commissioner Carrie Blumert
  • State Representative Collin Walke

“As an organization working for criminal justice reform, OCJR fully supports additional funding for training for law enforcement officers for mental health crisis response,” said OCJR Executive Director Kris Steele. “Arrest rates and violent altercations would dramatically decline with additional behavioral response training.” 

Officials estimate that one in every 10 calls for a police response involves a person with a mental illness.

“Police officers are often the first to respond to people struggling with a mental health crisis,” said Palomar Family Justice Center CEO and founder Kim Garrett. “In some instances, their response can literally be the difference between life and death.  It is essential to provide officers with diverse techniques and training to succeed.  Officers should have continued and expanded training and support to safely de-escalate crisis and get people connected to the help they need.  Palomar fully supports increasing funding through the Law Enforcement Training for Mental Health Crisis Response Act.”   

The Law Enforcement Training for Mental Health Crisis Response Act has 25 bipartisan cosponsors in the U.S. House of Representatives.

“I am proud to support Congresswoman Horn’s Law Enforcement Training for Mental Health Crisis Response Act,” said Oklahoma County Commissioner Carrier Blumert. “This specialized training will give our officers here in Oklahoma a better understanding and the tools to respond to all types of mental health needs.  As a champion for MAPS 4 Mental Health, I want every officer to respond appropriately and with compassion as we work get our citizens the help they need.” 

“Understanding mental health issues and their effects upon our criminal justice system should be a priority in order reduce incarceration rates and to ensure that those individuals who are arrested as a result of mental health issues receive the help that they need,” said Walke. 

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