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Board seeks more discussion on mental health issues

By Katherine Wartell

The issue of how police officers handle citizens with mental health issues came up again at Tuesday’s Riley County Law Board meeting, with board members concluding the topic should be discussed further in city and county meetings.

Robbin Cole, executive director of Pawnee Mental Health Services, spoke to the board about the importance of having a CIT, or crisis intervention team, program that would help police officers learn how to effectively handle the mentally ill so they are not just put into the prison system.

Cole said using incarceration as public health treatment is ineffective.

CIT training is a 40-hour curriculum and encourages the collaboration between law enforcement and mental health agencies to identify appropriate and long-term solutions for people with mental illnesses.

Law board chair Karen McCulloh suggested that a task force be created to further look into the issue, while RCPD director Brad Schoen recommended that the topic be put on city and county agendas. Cost will be a prime discussion point.

At Tuesday’s board meeting, board members approved assistant director John Doehling’s request to purchase seven new vehicles for the RCPD fleet. He said that while $200,000 was budgeted for the vehicles, he estimated a cost of $173,647.

At the meeting, Jeff Koenig and Aaron Apel, representing Big Poppi Bicycle Company, were given a certificate of appreciation by the RCPD for their help in recovering stolen bicycles and solving numerous larceny cases.

Schoen also awarded Dawson Adams, an 11-year-old who helped to save a young child from drowning, the Riley County Police Department Life Saving Award.

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