Lincoln police deal with mental health issues more

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — The number of mental health issues Lincoln Police are dealing with is increasing significantly.

The Lincoln Journal Star reports (http://bit.ly/1ayV1aX ) the number of mental health calls police handled grew 80 percent from 1,276 in 2001 to 2,294 last year.

Lincoln Public Safety Director Tom Casady said the dramatic increase in calls, which doesn’t include suicides or attempted suicides, is troubling.

Casady said he wonders if the statistics suggest mental health services in the community are failing to meet residents’ needs.

“What worries me is if we have more people with mental health issues that could be managed with a fairly low level of community care . but they are not able to get it,” Casady said. “Maybe we’re using the $10 solution to the $1 problem.”

Casady said most of these mental health problems could be better treated by outpatient care instead of police.

Mental health advocate Dean Settle is also frustrated that so many people have to turn to police for help in these situations.

“Our state has tried to do the right thing, but the need is probably greater than the resources we have today,” said Settle, former director of the Community Mental Health Center in Lincoln and current owner of Metro Gallery, a downtown art shop that features work by people with mental health issues.

Kasey Moyer, associate director of the Mental Health Association of Nebraska, said there are many reasons why people don’t seek help before a crisis. Lacking insurance, fear of social stigma, lacking money and trouble getting an appointment all contribute, Moyer said.

Between 2000 and 2010, 3,547 suicide attempts were reported to police. Casady said he found that 388 people had tried to end their life more than once and 108 made three or more attempts. One man tried 12 times.

Casady said he hopes the community can find a better way to help people before they’re in a crisis.

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Information from: Lincoln Journal Star, http://www.journalstar.com

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