Letter: Understanding mental illness

Valeo Behavioral Health Care was founded 50 years ago as the Shawnee Community Mental Health Center. (File photo)

Your recent editorial was right on target. The 12-week NAMI Family to Family Workshop was excellent. As a non-mentally ill citizen, I learned a great deal from the instructors and participants, all of whom had mentally ill family members.

 

For more than a decade, criminal justice agencies in Topeka have undergone CIT (crisis intervention team) training. Today, a majority of the officers who work at the Topeka Police Department, the Shawnee County Sheriff’s Office and the Shawnee County Jail have taken the 40-hour CIT training. The principal purpose of this training is to take mentally ill people who are arrested to Valeo Behavioral Health Care for a mental health evaluation. This evaluation process is a valuable tool used to divert the mentally ill out of the criminal justice system and get them the treatment they need. Thank goodness for Valeo.

Some individuals, depending on the nature of their crimes, require incarceration. Corrections officers who manage and supervise these individuals need the CIT training to help mentally ill inmates succeed in jail or prison.

Here’s one big challenge confronting Topeka: when these inmates have completed their sentences and get released back to the community, they require good supervision and programs to ensure that they take their medication and go to alcohol/drug treatment sessions. Many mentally ill individuals face the challenge of overcoming alcohol and drug addiction. What is badly needed is improved public understanding of this situation.

This requires education, and a good place to get it is at the NAMI Family to Family program. There is no charge for this training.

KEN KERLE, Topeka

 

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