Local state senator advocates for better mental health training

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- A local state senator is trying to prevent violent confrontations between law enforcement and people with mental illness.

The constant question is how to prevent the incidents from happening.

At a state senate hearing on mental health, officials agreed there needs to be more behavioral health training for officers. Currently, state law only mandates six hours of training.

"It's clearly what's necessary to empower the officers with the information, techniques, real life examples they need to understand how to react under pressure when they're confronted with a situation," State Sen. Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles) said.

After a California Highway Patrol officer was caught on camera punching a woman on the side of the road, the agency changed its procedures and training is now 40 hours, both in class and in the field.

"A big component of that is identifying, recognizing someone who is suffering from a mental illness crisis - being able to deescalate these situations," CHP Capt. Rich Desmond said.

Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell said the county jail is the largest mental health facility in the nation, where about one-fifth of inmates have a mental illness.

Vikki Vickers was homeless for about four and a half years. She said she needs to regain trust in the system.

"I now fear what I'm supposed to respect and trust, and I don't want that continue," she said.

Mitchell said it is not just a law enforcement issue. It is also an issue that society needs to address to help people with mental health issues.
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