First responders use training to help suicidal subjects

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SHERIDAN — Sheridan is somwhat a regional hub for mental health resources with the Sheridan Veterans Affairs Health System and Northern Wyoming Mental Health Center.

Those resources, though, are sometimes not enough for the high volume of calls coming into the Sheridan Police Department and Rocky Mountain Ambulance.

“I don’t feel like we have a lot of resources for mental health here,” co-owner of Rocky Mountain Ambulance Kari Goodwin said. “Our VA is great, but if you’re not a vet there’s not a lot of help here as far as needing inpatient treatment. We take a lot of patients to Billings and Casper for the fact that we don’t have a facility here in Sheridan.”

Before RMA or the SPD transport suicidal subjects to treatment facilities or the hospital on a Title 25 involuntary hold, both entities put their training into action and provide as many resources as possible to alleviate the issue without hospitalization.

“We work very closely with law enforcement when it comes to the calls,” Goodwin said.

SPD Lt. Travis Koltiska said patrol officers use Title 25 holds, in which first responders involuntarily transport people to Sheridan Memorial Hospital because they pose a danger to themselves or others.

Both RMA and SPD approach each suicidal subject call differently based on the information they receive at the onset.

Calls can range from a concerned family member that results in an unfounded case to a person with a weapon in hand.

“Our response varies on the information we get,” Koltiska said.

A lot of dangers can go along with someone who proves to be suicidal, so SPD takes extra precaution if a subject is in possession of a weapon. Officers will attempt contact through telephone or other means before coming directly to the door. The calls posing danger to the subject or officers are tricky to maneuver.

“We don’t want to put an officer in jeopardy and we also don’t want to trigger something that could set something in motion that we don’t want to happen,” Koltiska said.

After making initial contact and assessing the situation, officers decide next steps, which often include referrals to the VA or NWMHC.

First responders noted alcohol and drugs to be other strong contributing factors to suicidal subject calls.

“Someone who is struggling with mental health and also under influence (of drugs or alcohol) does not call for rational decision-making,” Koltiska said.

Subjects under the influence of drugs or alcohol while also in possession of a weapon pose an additional threat to themselves and the officers attempting to better the situation.

“Approaching it like, ‘Oh let them sober up,’ is not the right way of doing it either,” Koltiska said. “If something were to happen, it would be very tragic that we didn’t take the chance to intervene at an earlier time.”

First responders approach each suicidal subject call differently based on information given at the beginning of the call.

Despite a lack of inpatient resources in Sheridan, responders utilize training to do everything they can to help those who may not be able to help themselves.

By |August 1st, 2018|

About the Author:

Ashleigh Fox joined The Sheridan Press in October 2016 as the government, cops and courts reporter. She is a native of Colorado and graduated from Biola University in Los Angeles, CA. Before working in Sheridan, she worked as a sports editor for the Sidney Herald in Sidney, MT. Email Ashleigh at: ashleigh.fox@thesheridanpress.com

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