CHARLESTON COUNTY, SC (WCSC) - A pending bill would require South Carolina law enforcement to receive training on how to de-escalate situations involving people with mental illnesses.
It's called Crisis Intervention Team training and the bill is awaiting the Governor's signature before it can go into effect.
If it becomes law it would be a prayer answered for Peer Support Specialist with the Berkeley Department of Health, Patica Green.
"We've pushed we've prayed we fought for this to happen, why because countless numbers of traumatic events have happened involving those living with mental illnesses," Green said.
She says as a peer support specialist and advocate for mental health awareness she works to educate the community on mental health issues and ways that people can continue to lead a "successful meaningful purposeful life."
According to the National Alliance of Mental Illness, Crisis Intervention Teams are a program model for community policing that brings together law enforcement, mental health providers, hospital emergency departments and individuals with mental illness and their families to improve responses to people in crisis.
Lt. Dan Mattock with the Charleston County Sheriff's Office is an instructor for the training.
"There's not a day that goes by that a law enforcement officers doesn't encounter somebody who either has a mental illness or either has a mental health crisis," Mattock said.
The sheriff has mandated that all of his deputies receive this training.They hope to have everyone trained by the end of the year.
"Not only to deescalate but to make the best of a tense and uncertain situation," Mattock said.
The 40-hour training teaches tactics like active listening skills and uses video and role playing exercises to go over scenarios they could encounter. In some cases training helps direct people with mental illnesses to treatment instead of jail.
"I'm thankful they have this training that's available I think that it makes the best out of a bad situation and hopefully reduces use of force and injuries and all of those types of situations that go with those calls," Mattock said.
Green says she wants everyone to be on the same page on how to handle these situations.
"I have lived with a mental illness for several years I've walked the walk," Green said. "We want things to be a lot better we want lives to be saved."
With tears in her eyes, she know the difference this training can make.
"Lives have been needlessly lost and we don't want that," Green said.
The Charleston County Sheriff's Office is collaborating with other local law enforcement officers to provide training. Some of the other departments travel out of their county for training.