AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) — A bipartisan bill introduced by U.S. Senator Jon Ossoff to fund training for law enforcement when responding to mental health crisis calls, is now a law.
The bill is being put in place to help first responders better recognize and assist individuals suffering from PTSD, traumatic brain injuries, or other mental illnesses .
Captain Jimmy Wylds with the Burke County Sheriff’s Office says they receive about five calls a month regarding a mental illness. Even though they already have a training put in place, this bill is a step forward to responding to calls the correct way.
“Recognizing someone in a mental health crisis and trying to get them help rather than arrest them and it has to do with dispatchers taking the initial call from somebody who may be in mental health distress,” said Captain Wylds.
Senator Ossoff says this bill is also for paramedics, EMTs, and firefighters.
“Increasingly first responders are turning up at the scene and there’s someone who is in a mental health crisis, we want to make sure that those first responders have the training that they need to defuse and manage that situation successfully and they have the support from qualified mental health professionals when they deployed to a scene such as that.”
Local activist Reverend Larry Fryer says this new legislation will be good for small communities, to help save lives, especially for those in Richmond County.
“The training that has been needed has not been there but I think with having the police officers train I commended I think is it is a good thing for them it helps them to better serve the community” said Rev. Fryer.
Captain Wylds says although their job is to serve and protect, it’s important people know calling the police for a mental health crisis doesn’t have to be your first resource.
“And too often people don’t understand that and they call us wanting us to be the mental health professional when sometimes we’re the problem they see the police and think they’re in trouble and they don’t respond to us as well as they do to somebody that’s not in uniform” said Captain Wylds.