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Police and deputies train to defuse mental health crises

Mental health training a priority for TPD and PCSD
Posted at 11:17 AM, Sep 11, 2018
and last updated 2018-09-14 17:24:52-04

When a mental health crisis overtakes someone they may come face to face with police---sometimes with violent results.

Tucson Police and Pima County Deputies have special teams trained to defuse dangerous situations and help people get the help they need.

Police say it's a myth that people with mental health issues are usually violent and dangerous.  Sgt. Jason Winsky leads the Mental Health Support Team for Tucson Police.  

"In fact, that population is more likely to be the victim of a crime than they are to ever commit one," he said.

It's sometimes assumed TPD and the Pima Sheriff's Department began to work toward better mental health training after January 8th, 2011, when Jared Loughner killed six people and wounded thirteen.

MORE: Law Enforcement and Mental Health 

The origin of the teams reaches back to 2005 after a deranged man pulled Pima Deputy Tim Graham into a busy road. The deputy, the disturbed man and a cab driver who tried to help all died when vehicles hit them.  The Sheriff's Department began a push for mental health training and TPD soon followed.

Officers and deputies get extensive mental health training.  Sergeant Winsky says they learn if there is a confrontation to avoid being fast and aggressive and to slow things down instead.

MORE: CIT may prevent the arrests of people with Mental illness

"So we try and use first names, we try and make eye contact, we speak slowly and clearly, and try to really listen to what the person is saying, and give them that feedback back that we are hearing about what they're saying," Winsky said.

If someone's hallucinating and lost grip on reality, officers reintroduce reality.

Sergeant Winsky gives an example: "So today's Tuesday, it's September, I'm Sergeant Winsky from the mental health team. You can point to your badge or your insignia, or your uniform to try and ground the person back to reality. And really, it just takes time."

And to be sure there is that time, TPD and Pima Sheriffs have teams assigned to mental health only so they will not have to spend just a few minutes and rush to another call.


If you are in crisis right now please call 9-1-1 or the 24-hour crisis line 1-866-495-6735 (TDD/TTY: 1-877-613-2076)

You can visit these place for help: 

Crisis Response Center 2802 E District St, Tucson, AZ 85714
St. Mary's Hospital 1601 W St Mary’s Rd, Tucson, AZ 85745
Banner South Campus 2800 E Ajo Way, Tucson, AZ 85714
Palo Verde Hospital 2695 N Craycroft Rd, Tucson, AZ 85712
Sonora Behavioral Health 6050 N Corona Rd, Tucson, AZ 85704
Carondelet Health Network Hospital 350 N Wilmot Rd, Tucson, AZ 85711