Police forces see increase in mental health, calls for substance use

CLEVELAND — The number of calls to police services related to mental health has increased by an estimated 20% nationwide. The local police services are also seeing an increase.

“More and more calls we make are related to people with mental health problems,” said Lakewood Police Department Captain Gary Stone.

The department has a Crisis Intervention Team specially trained to deal with psychological problems. That team has seen a 23% increase in their services over last year, according to Stone.

“If a mental health call comes in, they will be sent first,” Stone said.

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

This week, Westlake cops are involved in active shooting training, but Westlake cops are also training to help those in mental crisis.

“We have several calls every week dealing with people who are having problems,” said Westlake Police Department Captain Gerald Vogel.

Westlake also has a specially trained Crisis Intervention Team. “This is an intensive week-long training so that officers learn to recognize that they are dealing with someone in a mental health crisis and learn how to de-escalate the situation,” says Vogel.

There are also five FBI-trained hostage negotiators who help de-escalate situations.

Some experts point out that the pandemic is playing a role in the rise in mental health and the crisis in substance use.

“I don’t think it helped. The isolation of people, probably the internet, became more of a part of people’s lives, which is not healthy for everyone’, says Vogel.

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