Law enforcement response to mobile crisis leaves family searching for answers

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) – Zachary Sellars said his family had called Mobile Crisis Services before, but this time it was different.

“Okay, so here’s the video of Sumner County Sgt. coming in,” Sellars said, pointing to a personal video on his phone.

He claims law enforcement repeatedly beat his brother Jonathan, who he says has paranoid schizophrenia.

“Whether it’s someone going through a crisis themselves, it can be a family member or another mental health professional. Calls can come from a wide range of people,” said Volunteer Behavioral Health Care System business development manager Séjal West. The organization is one of many mobile crisis service providers.

West said the goal of mobile crisis services is to provide early intervention and recovery resources.

“So there are 24/7 helplines, and these people are trained, and they determine whether a face-to-face clinical assessment is needed or not,” she said. .

Although this sometimes means sending a trained mental health professional, this is not always the case.

“There are times when law enforcement would go without the mental health professional,” West said. “When it’s appropriate and safe, the practice is to come together. But there are times when it’s not.”

It is unclear whether trained mental health professionals answered the call. It’s also not known whether the responding deputies have completed crisis intervention training (CIT), although the Sumner County Sheriff’s Office participates.

“At CIT, officers are trained to understand mental illness, mental health,” West said.

“I think, absolutely, someone who has been trained in mental health could have kept him calm and convinced him to go to the hospital by not forcing him and throwing him on the floor and making a violent scene. “, said Zachary.

Jeff Fladen is the executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness in Tennessee.

“We’re very involved in CIT training and leading it statewide,” Fladen said.

“We have found, however, that with CIT-trained officers, when we look at mental health crises, the percentage of use-of-force cases goes down,” Fladen said.

But he said more counties in Tennessee aren’t doing it. offer CIT training versus those who do.

“We’ve been working for the last four or five years to bring CIT to all the communities in Tennessee and help them get going because the police have really done a bad job, in my opinion – where you expect to what she deals with mental health crisis without really having the training to do it,” Fladen said.

Jonathan’s family said the training could have prevented the alleged beatings from happening.

“When it comes to mental health, I think they need to understand that there’s a difference between a violent appeal and a mental appeal,” Zachary said. “It’s completely different, and they need to understand that you can’t treat every call as a completely violent call in this world.”

The Sumner County Sheriff and the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Addiction are investigating the incident.

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