Viewpoint: Taking a proactive approach to the mental health crisis in our community

Caption: Bouquets are stack up in front of crosses put up for victims along the temporary fence line outside the parking lot of a King Soopers grocery store, the site of a mass shooting in which 10 people died in Boulder, Colo., on March 26. (Photo credit: David Zalubowski – staff, AP)


By William J. Redman, St. Joseph County Sheriff | South Bend Tribune
April 10, 2021

Read the story at its source.

While watching the horrific details of the shooting that occurred in Boulder, Colo., last month, I couldn’t help but think about each victim and their families. Then I learned that Boulder Police Officer Eric Talley, the first responding officer, was one of the many victims was truly heartbreaking. The mixed emotions of disbelief, sadness and anger all ran through my mind while watching the news coverage.

To realize that each of these victims were just simply completing everyday tasks, like most of us do daily, really hit home. The reality that this could happen anywhere including in our very own community became the forefront of my thoughts and concerns once again.

While watching the news coverage of this incident the past few days, several news sources have reported that the suspect possibly suffered from a combination of paranoia and mental illness.

At the initial court hearing, his attorney has requested a mental evaluation to be conducted.

It appears that his family and friends knew he was suffering from mental issues prior to this shooting.

As a police officer for nearly 27 years and now serving as your sheriff, I have continued to see the number of mental health calls for service increase over time. Our local police officers deal with multiple calls daily of individuals suffering from mental illness. Some of these individuals have violent tendencies and possess weapons, including guns.

Often these individuals are transported to local hospitals for evaluations and released soon thereafter, or they may be arrested and again released back into our community. Then there are those who are housed in our jail for lengthy periods of times because simply put, there is no other option for them. This puts a serious strain on our medical and correctional staff and doesn’t allow for us to fully address the individual’s needs.

Our department has taken many proactive approaches to the mental health crisis here in our community. I implemented more mental health training for our officers, assigned Sgt. Dan Banicki as our full time mental health liaison officer, purchased 25 new less lethal BolaWraps for officers in the field to safely detain those attempting to harm themselves. I’ve also publicly supported a local effort to obtain grant funds for a local mental health mobile response unit.

We have also utilized the “Jake Laird” law (also known as the Red Flag Law IC 35-47-14), which allows our officers to remove weapons (including guns) from individuals who are demonstrating violent behavior and threatening themselves or others at the time of an incident. Within 14 days, a court hearing is then conducted to determine the seizure of those weapons, and if they remain in our possession or returned to the individual.

With all this being said, we can’t do this alone. Our community is in serious need of a mental health hub and a long-term facility for those suffering from mental illness. The mental health hub would be a facility that would be staffed 24/7. A place for those suffering from mental illness could be evaluated and receive treatment from medical professionals, specifically trained in the mental health field.

Since becoming sheriff, I have met with countless numbers of people with similar concerns. This includes many citizens, our officers, Oaklawn staff, St. Joseph County Health Department, representatives of Faith in Indiana and several city, county and state elected officials. We all must work together to help prevent these violent acts that we witness over and over again throughout this country. We must act now!


William J. Redman is St. Joseph County sheriff.

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