Chief Craig: Lack of mental care leads to more violence against police

- A young Detroit police officer was gunned down on the job last week, and the man accused of pulling the trigger is believed to have a mental illness.

It's a problem that's becoming all too common, and one that makes an already dangerous job even more unpredictable for police. 

"What is it going to take, another mass shooting?" asks Detroit Police Chief James Craig. "Another dead police officer? What is it going to take?"

Craig and his department are still mourning the loss of Officer Glenn Doss, but he's seizing the moment to have a frank conversation about what lies at the root of the problem - mental health care and the lack of it.

The family of 43-year-old Decharlos Brooks says he was off his medication at the time of Doss's shooting, and that Brooks has mental health issues. 

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"My husband was mentally ill," said Natalie Scott, Brooks' wife. "He wasn't the person that he once was. This was surprising. It was getting worse, but we didn't get him help." 

The chief says he and his officers see this all too often on the streets.

"First of all, they call us, which they should," Craig said. "We stabilize the situation. We take them to say, Receiving (Hospital). A 72-hour hold if that, and then they're released. That's not the answer."

Seventy-two hours of care isn't enough.

"The main problem here is not that a patient has failed to take a medication, the problem is actually access to care," said Dr. Lila Massoumi. Psychiatrist Dr. Lila Massoumi of Bingham Farms says the closure of mental health facilities leaves patients with no place to go.

She says the vast majority of people suffering from mental health issues aren't violent. But a look at inmates tells you there is a real issue.

"Approximately one in five inmates is a psychiatric patient that failed to get psychiatric care," she said. "So really it's more of a societal problem of mental health care and stigma against the mentally ill than it is a simple pill solution."

"They're not treating people in the institution, in the jails," Craig said. "They're not getting treatment. So what we've done in essence, is criminalize."

Chief Craig says the number of barricaded gunmen situations have gone up, and mental health is at the center of many of those cases.

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Then there's Wayne State University Officer Colin Rose, who was shot and killed in the line of duty in 2016. The suspect in that case also had untreated mental issues.

"We need to stop talking," Craig said. "Instead we need to get to the lawmakers, that's what the people can do. Hold our lawmakers accountable to put money to this crisis."

"I would probably advocate with your legislators to put more money into mental health services in to treatment and prevention and availability," Massoumi said.

For people who are in need of, or searching for mental care, may go to the Michigan Mental Health Networker at http://mhweb.org/ 

The site is maintained by a local social worker and updated monthly. It lists both commercial and government run services, organized by county.

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