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Mental Illness Discussed At Crime Prevention Conference

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BOZEMAN -

Mental illness was one of the main topics discussed on Thursday at the 7th annual Montana Crime Prevention conference in Bozeman.

The room was packed on Thursday as officials from the Gallatin County Detention Center talked about what they are doing to help those who suffer from mental illness.

Topics discussed were crisis intervention and how law enforcement and the community can help with those who suffer with mental illness.

Eilissa Crowe is a mental health therapist at the Gallatin County Detention Center. She evaluates inmates who struggle adjusting to the facility or those who are having behavioral problems.

"Do they need increase intervention? Do they special housing? Do they need immediate medication? Do they need increased intervention from the mental health providers?" said Crowe.

Crowe said she is seeing more people with mental health symptoms than they have in the past and about one-third of inmates receive some sort of mental illness service.

"Many people who would have been served in the mental health facility or stay at hospitals are actually coming to the detention center," said Crowe.

Crowe said inmates are getting the help they need now instead of later because they now have officers trained to identify mental health symptoms through the Gallatin County Crisis Intervention team that started in 2010. The team is made up of officers, mental health providers and the community.

"They are able to approach them where they are de-escalating the situation. They're trying to develop that relationship and encourage them to get mental health care," said Crowe.

The Department of Health and Human Services, Bozeman Deaconess Hospital and the Sheriff's Office also attended the conference.

Sheriff Brian Gootkin said the most important part of helping those who suffer from mental illness is keeping the people in crisis here in the community where they live.

"We've shown that we can do it here in Gallatin County. If we can do it here, we can do it throughout the state," said Gootkin.

He said he wants to help people instead of automatically putting them in the Criminal Justice System.

"We are trying to divert them and trying to get them the resources they need because once they get into the criminal justice system it's like quick sand," said Gootkin.

Since the team started, the number of inmates transferred to Warm Springs has decreased from 66 in 2010 to 14 in 2012.

Other things discussed at the conference was how to properly train the brain to recognize and react to a dangerous situation.

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