MN needs mental health training

In Minnesota, 45 percent of people who died in physical confrontations with law enforcement since 2000 had a history of mental health illness or were in the midst of a mental health crisis, Star Tribune reporting has shown.

Last year, that number shot up to 69 percent, in part because Minnesota police officers are often the most available responders for those experiencing psychological emergencies.

What’s more, only 15 percent of officers in Minnesota’s 12 largest law enforcement agencies have completed the Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) model — a five-day, 40-hour course that prepares officers to handle mental health emergencies.

CIT’s model employs officers specifically trained as primary or secondary responders in mental health emergencies.

Earlier this year, all University of Minnesota police officers completed de-escalation training to better prepare for situations of mental health crises on campus — an initiative that we applaud.

With more than 500,000 people in Minnesota suffering from mental health concerns, it is reprehensible that officers not be properly trained in how to handle psychological crises.

Further, it is imperative to increase the accessibility of mental health programs across the state by lessening the burden of cost-prohibitive support.

We urge legislators to reach across the aisle and direct more funds to Minnesotan mental health initiatives. Mandating that officers are better equipped to handle mental health crises will only begin to address the state’s public safety concerns.