Police departments see increase in mental health, substance use calls both locally and nationally

CLEVELAND — Mental health-related calls to police departments are up an estimated 20% nationwide. Local police departments are seeing an increase as well.

“More and more calls we are going on involve people with mental health issues, “ said Capt. Gary Stone, Lakewood Police Department.

The department has a Crisis Intervention Team which is specially trained to handle mental health calls. That team has seen a 23% increase for their services from last year, according to Stone.

“When a mental health call comes in dispatch will send them first,” said Stone.

Fairview Park Police saw an increase from 60 calls to 87 calls from Aug. 1, 2021, to the same time this year.

This week, Westlake Police officers are involved in active shooter training, but Westlake officers also train to help those in mental crisis.

“Weekly, we have multiple calls that are dealing with people who are having troubles,” said Capt. Gerald Vogel, Westlake Police Department.

Westlake also has a specially trained Crisis Intervention Team as well. “Which is a weeklong intensive training, so officers learn to recognize they’re dealing with someone in mental health crisis and learn the ways to deescalate the situation,” said Vogel.

There are also five hostage negotiators trained by the FBI that respond to help deescalate situations.

Some experts point to the pandemic as playing a role in the increase in mental health, substance use crisis.

“I don’t think it helped. People’s isolation, probably the internet, became more of a part of people’s lives which isn’t healthy for everybody,” said Vogel.

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