Clackamas Co. deputies receive training in mental health first a - KPTV - FOX 12

Clackamas Co. deputies receive training in mental health first aid

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A spike in mental health cases across the Portland metro area is now prompting the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office to train deputies specifically in mental health first aid.

Nearly 2 million people with mental illnesses are booked into jails across the country every year.  A statistic from the National Alliance on Mental Illness that's motivating Clackamas County to take action.

"It's an important subject for us to get involved in," said Sgt. Jason Ritter with Clackamas County. "We've seen such a rise in mental health illnesses in Clackamas County and across the Portland metro, that we need to have our people better understand mental health issues in general."

Sgt. Jason Ritter with the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office says they've seen a steady increase in calls they respond to involving people who are experiencing some sort of mental health crisis.

To give deputies a better understanding of how to help and support people on those calls, they're now training deputies in mental health first aid.

"They're going to learn the signs and symptoms of how to recognize different mental health illnesses depression, anxiety, psychosis and how to deal with it," said Ritter.

FOX 12 was there for one of those eight hour long classes. While there, correctional deputies sat in on the lesson lead by Sgt. Ritter. 

He's pushing to train as many people as possible and now working to also help the Port of Portland, the Molalla Fire Department and Concordia College as well.

"We had one guy come up after a training, and say 'hey, I didn't know the signs and symptoms of this and one of my friends is going through this, and now I'm going to go have this conversation with them,' that alone is well worth it," said Ritter.

Ritter's hope, to cut down on the stigma surrounding mental health issues and provide deputies with the skills they need to reach out and provide support to someone in need, instead of potentially hauling them off to jail.

"It's not a fix all, but it really gives us an extra tool in the tool box to understand and decrease stigma of mental illness," said Ritter. "We need to break that stigma and show it's an illness and that people who battle it every day are survivors, they're the heroes as far as I'm concerned."

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