Inside LADA

July 3, 2017: Mental Health Training for First Responders

The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office has established an ambitious program to train law enforcement officers and other first responders on how to more effectively interact with individuals in a mental health crisis.

“These are some of the most dangerous situations that first-responders can encounter,” District Attorney Jackie Lacey said. “We have found that when officers or first responders are trained, officer-involved shootings go down and use of force incidents go down.”

The training targets first responders from 45 local police agencies throughout Los Angeles County. By June 2017, approximately 1,060 officers were trained on additional tactics and tools to calmly and safely take a person in a mental health crisis into custody when needed.

The District Attorney’s Criminal Justice Institute provides 16-hour trainings twice a month throughout the county. The class uses role-playing to demonstrate de-escalation techniques, teaches officers about different symptoms of mental illness and introduces them to individuals and family members who describe living with mental illness. 

The training initiative stems from recommendations by the county’s Criminal Justice Mental Health Advisory Board, which took a comprehensive look at how the criminal justice system deals with issues of mental illness. It is designed to help people living with mental illness stay out of the criminal justice system and to improve the safety of first responders.