DCSO employees, officers to take training on handling mental illness

Local News

It’s a day Sheriff Daron Hall will never forget.  

“He lodged himself up there and refused to come down,” Hall said.  

Jan. 5, 2016, a man with severe anxiety climbed on top of an I-65 sign and stayed for hours. 

“He thought the traffic was closing in on him, so he got of his car and got away from it,” he said.  

One month later, another high-profile case of mental illness took place at Nashville International Airport. 

“A naked man was in the line at the airport,” Hall said.  

Both men were arrested, charged, and taken to jail. They’re two cases Hall says that could have been handled differently. 

“Most modern countries don’t take you to jail for being ill,” he said.  

Hall hopes new training called “Handle with Care” will help change that. Officers and staff with DCSO will learn de-escalation and tactics to work with the mentally ill. 

“If the person doesn’t understand what you’re asking them to do, we typically have used force in corrections,” Hall said. “We’re trying to get away from that.”  

“We’re tying to calm the person down.” 

Hall says about 100 people are arrested every day in Nashville, about 30 of them are mentally ill.  

“Schizophrenia is one,” Hall said. “Bipolar, obviously. Severe depression.”  

Officers and staff will get about 24 hours of training.  

Hall says it will mainly be for staff at the new Behavioral Care Center opening later this year.  

Shara Biggs has taught similar training to hundreds of officers as a liaison for Mental Health Cooperative. 

“We talk about de-escalation,” Biggs said. “We talk about assessing for suicide risk.”  
Hall hopes those skills will lead to more treatment instead of more jail time. 

“We’ll treat it as what it is, an illness instead of a crime,” Hall said. 

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