Washington County deputies receiving mental health training

The county is making sure law enforcement is ready for anything.

SANDERSVILLE, Georgia(41NBC/WGMGT)– It was a packed classroom in Washington County, as law enforcement and other organizations in Middle Georgia learned about a growing problem not only in Georgia, but across the country.

“Isolation and not being able to get their psychiatric care or mental health care, specifically has caused issues,” said Chuck Simmons, an instructor for Georgia Crisis Intervention Team. “People start self-medicating with alcohol and drugs. That’s gone through the roof I promise you, and we’re the ones that get called out when these kinds of things happen.”

Sergeant Larry Reeves with Washington County, says mental health calls are something he sees more of every day.

“When you’re dealing with mental health you’ve got to go at it from a different standpoint and different level of conversation,” Reeves explained. “Just ask them one thing at a time and kind of help them cope with their feelings as you talk with them.”

According to the American Psychology Association, it’s estimated at least 20% of police calls involve a mental health or substance use crisis.

“There’s two pandemics kind of going on and one has kind of been set to the side,” Simmons stated. “The opioid pandemic was already kind of raging and still is. On top of that is the COVID and it’s caused more mental health kind of situations.”

This training comes as three Washington County deputies are on trial for the 2017 tasing death of 58-year-old Eurie Martin.

Martin was reported as a suspicious person after he knocked on a woman’s door, asking if he could have a drink of water. Once deputies arrived on the scene, they asked Martin to stop walking and tell them his name. When Martin refused, he was tased to death.

Sheriff Joel Cochran says he wants each of his deputies, and each Sandersville police officer to take this mental health training course. Sheriff Cochran hopes it will prevent what happened to Martin, happening to someone else.

“This has been an outcry from the community … the concerns over mental health issues with people and the response of law enforcement and first responders in trying to prevent further harm to themselves or others,” Cochran said.

The training is in eight-hour sessions and lasts until Friday. After leaving training in the classroom, deputies will then respond to a mock call to use the mental health lessons in action.

The Superior Court trial for the three Washington County deputies is set to begin on October 11 at the Dublin Superior Court.

Categories: Featured, Health, Local News, Washington County, WMGT