This week, police officers from around Lane County are training to more effectively resolve encounters with people who have mental illness.
Eugene Police have had annual crisis intervention training since 2008. This year, for the first time, the 40-hour class has expanded to include law enforcement personnel from around the region.
Lieutenant Jennifer Bills developed the program. She says its goal is to give officers the tools they need to better deal with people with intellectual disabilities.
Bills: "It gives the officer the basic knowledge about mental illness, it talks a lot about some of the medications and then it gives the skills: time, distance, how to speak to someone who may be hearing voices. So it provides those skill sets for officers to better assess and deal with the situation."
Bills says the recent closure of the Royal Avenue Shelter Care facility puts added pressure on Eugene Police. With fewer resources, it's harder to maintain safety for the public, the officers and the individuals in crisis. She says when people are released back onto the street, they are in greater danger of entering the criminal justice system if they commit a crime. The regional crisis intervention training wraps up Friday.