BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Tuesday is World Mental Health Day. Following the Cheektowaga Police Department’s response to a call for a welfare check which came to a peaceful resolution Monday, News 4 took a look at how the department trains its officers to respond to high-stress situations and mental health crises.
Cheektowaga Chief of Police Brian Gould says when it comes to mental health calls like Monday’s, time is on officers’ sides.
When officers arrived Monday at St. Boniface Road in a residential neighborhood after receiving a call for a welfare check with “very little information,” they encountered a man in a vehicle with a weapon. They evacuated nearby residents and spent time talking to the man. The situation eventually came to a peaceful resolution.
Gould told News 4 that much effort goes into making sure officers are ready for any type of mental health crisis. That includes specialized training and cooperation with a behavioral health team.
Gould said the community has placed a great focus on how law enforcement can better respond to people experiencing mental health crises to avert tragedies. Gould explained the department cannot prevent every tragedy, but it is important that they do everything they can.
“The FBI has a great negotiators class that we send officers to just so that when we get these difficult situations, we have highly trained officers with the best equipment available to respond to them and put the odds in our favor as best as we can,” Gould said.
Gould says working with local mental health providers, like Endeavor Health Services and Crisis Services, has been a game-changer. He wants to remind residents there are resources outside the police department that can also get emergency help 24/7.
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If you or someone you know is experiencing a crisis, help is available now. Erie County’s Crisis Hotline is available 24 hours a day: 716-834-3131. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is also available 24 hours a day: Simply call or text 988, or chat at 988lifeline.org. For more information, visit CrisisServices.org.
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Jordan Norkus is an anchor who has been part of the News 4 team since 2021. See more of her work here.