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Program Provides Mental Health Training To Police Officers

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The county police report officers responded to more than 4,000 calls involving people with mental illness last year. A common one is a person suffering from Alzheimer's or dementia who has gone missing.

Shelly Edwards, of the Alzheimer's Association in Fairfax, Va, is one of the mental health professionals who take part in the training.

"People with dementia don't think they're lost," she says. "Trying to approach them as a lost person won't necessarily work. For example, pulling in helicopters might not be a good situation because a person with Alzheimer's might actually run away from it instead of running to it."

Officer Scott Davis is the program's coordinator, and he says police from other states and federal agencies now come to Montgomery County to participate.

"We even had NASA come down, some of their investigators came down for training," he says. "Because they deal with a large amount of the mentally ill population, showing up at their doorsteps trying to do some different things and projects."

More than 1,200 Montgomery County police officers have received the training during the program's 10-year history.

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