Community Council revisits mental health issues

By: 
JENNY GESSAMAN
Reporter

The relationship between law enforcement and those with mental health issues dominated discussion at the Fergus County Community Council’s meeting Monday.

The conversation started when council member Gilles Stockton reported Fergus County might lose a resource for crisis intervention training. In 2013, Lewistown’s National Alliance for Mental Illness office received a $20,000 grant. The award covered the costs for 10 law enforcement officers or first responders to receive critical incident training.

Stockton said the money had sent one officer to training in the past three years, and the grant foundation was requesting the unspent funds back. In response, NAMI representative Jeannie Walter wrote a letter requesting a grant extension, citing the Lewistown Police Department’s plan to send one officer to training next spring.

The council discussed why so few officers or first responders had attended crisis intervention training, and many members agreed local law enforcement seemed uninterested.

“We’re getting a lot of resistance from our police officers,” Stockton said.

“And our sheriff’s department,” member Jo Shipman added.

Stockton recalled Sheriff Troy Eades’ initial concerns over how to house a mentally ill arrestee, but said the issue had been solved with a county grant. He explained a state grant had given Fergus County the ability to monetarily support hospital intake of the non-violent mentally ill.

“The problem is not ‘not enough money’,” Shipman said. “The problem is we can’t get people there [to the training].”

After discussing the benefits of crisis intervention training for law enforcement, the Council decided to reach out to local law enforcement departments. A motion to form a presentation committee unanimously passed, and the new group was tasked with research and creating a proposal to show law enforcement departments. Council members agreed on a one-month deadline for the proposal.

 

In other business

• Secretary/Treasurer Tom Wojtowick reported the Fergus County Community Council had a balance of $1,602.

• Although his term doesn’t start until next year, newly elected Council member Joshua Scotson introduced himself at Monday’s meeting. He was welcomed by current members, and given a short history of the government body.

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