March 11, 2016
Yesterday was an excellent day for SC House Bill H.5025 as it received a very positive hearing in front of the House committee. Paton Blough was a part of the hearing, and was also featured in a couple of local news outlets as they covered the bill. While H.5025 hasn’t passed in the House Committee yet, we are expecting that it will next week.
Paton and Rehinge would also like to give a huge thank you to Mike Woody, the president of CIT International, and NAMI Indiana for their hard work on creating the Indiana bill, SB380, that laid out the blue print for Bill H.5025, the Crisis Intervention Team Training Act.
A South Carolina House subcommittee passed a bill Thursday morning that would change the way police handle people with mental illness. Officers would be required to go through much more training on crisis intervention, and they would no longer transport to mental hospitals people who are not a danger to themselves or others. Instead, ambulances could transport those patients.
Bill sponsor Rep. Bruce Bannister, R-Greenville, says, “I think mental illness is a health care issue, and in those cases where the mentally ill person is not an actual danger to himself or to other people, that that person should be transported in an ambulance and not in the back of a patrol car handcuffed.”
Health care and police advocates appearing before a S.C. House subcommittee on Thursday pushed for new state laws they said would help de-escalate potentially explosive confrontations between police and mentally ill people.
Requiring police officers to have special training for dealing with the mentally ill would benefit both police and the mentally ill, said Paton Blough, 39, a Greenville resident who told subcommittee members of his six encounters with police while mentally troubled.
“Three of those arrests went well; three of those arrests turned violent. I believe the times I was calmly arrested had to do with the way officers dealt with me and not a difference in my mental state,” Blough said.
“All six times, I was under the delusion I was a god and police were trying to murder me,” he said. “… The officers’ ability to slow down and control the situation through verbal techniques was the main factor in calming my fears of death.”
In recent years, Blough’s personal experiences with mental illness have turned him into a state and national spokesman on ways to defuse confrontations between mentally ill people and police, who are often the first responders to calls concerning mentally ill people who might pose a danger to themselves or others. A board member of National Alliance on Mental Illness South Carolina, Blough now controls his illness through medication and various cognitive techniques.
The bill that Blough supports would set up “crisis intervention teams” operated through the sheriff’s department in each county, with specially trained officers who know how to deal with the mentally ill. It would also require more training by law enforcement officers in how to deal with mentally ill people.
“Law enforcement, health care, the (S.C.) Department of Mental Health — everyone who deals with or touches a mentally ill issue — would be part of a team to create a statewide crisis intervention program,” said Rep. Bruce Bannister, R-Greenville, chairman of the Constitutional Laws subcommittee of the Judiciary Committee, in an interview after the hearing.