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In US Police get little training to handle crises with mentally ill

Mentally ill people have been shot to death in recent years by police in Texas, California, Colorado and Virginia. Americans with severe mental illness are 16 times more likely to be killed by police than other civilians, an advocacy group found.

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Most U.S. police receive little or no training on how best to handle crises involving the mentally ill despite the growing frequency of such encounters and the fatal results in a number of recent cases.

Although more departments have added or expanded training in recent years as they faced greater scrutiny and litigation, the vast majority offer at best a maximum of 40 hours and are not reaching enough officers, according to police and mental health advocates.

Last weekend's Chicago police slaying of 19-year-old college student Quintonio LeGrier, who relatives said had suffered from mental issues, has raised questions about the training of officers who are routinely thrust into tense situations with people who may be affected by varying mental disorders, or drug and alcohol abuse.

"We're asking the police to fill the gaps that have been created by inadequate mental health resources," said Ron Honberg, national director for policy and legal affairs at the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

"It seems sadly ironic, tragically ironic when you call 911 about someone having a heart attack, they send a trained EMT professional, but when you call about someone in a psychotic crisis, a psychotic episode, they send police," he added.

The Chicago shooting also prompted calls from Mayor Rahm Emanuel for a review of the police department's Crisis Intervention Team and improved guidance for officers handling cases where the mental health of a person is a factor.

Mentally ill people have been shot to death in recent years by police in Texas, California, Colorado and Virginia. Americans with severe mental illness are 16 times more likely to be killed by police than other civilians, an advocacy group found.

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