Local mental health leader discusses addressing intense situations

Published: Sep. 1, 2022 at 11:45 PM EDT
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. (WNDU) - It’s a story you will see first on 16 News Now.

A mental health professional said the community needs to work together when responding to situations like the South Bend police shooting of Dante Kittrell.

John Horsley, who has been at Oaklawn for 11 years, and a clinician social worker since 2001, said he believes mental health professionals can be useful in highly intense situations.

Back in July, Kittrell was shot and killed by South Bend police officers after he pointed what appeared to be a handgun at those officers.

Body cam and dash cam video shows negotiators trying to deescalate the situation for nearly 40 minutes.

City leaders said officers used deadly force as a last resort.

“I believe that a mental health professional certainly could have guided, advised...It’s highly emotional and intense. You really do want to bring the best expertise you can to those situations to try to get the best outcome possible,” said Horsley.

According to South Bend Police, de-escalation training is highly effective, and officers did everything they could that day to get everyone home safely.

“I believe that this has raised some awareness of how intense these situations can be, and we’ve been aggressive at figuring out the additional training needed...our mobile crisis team is well trained in intervention, well trained in assessment...have they received specific training when somebody has a gun and there is a police standoff. no! but the training they have is useful in those situations, and if we need to co-respond with law enforcement, we absolutely will do that,” said Horsley.

Horsley said mental health crisis teams are essential, which is why Oaklawn is currently building its mobile crisis unit.

“I thought it made sense, and it makes sense going forward, that at least a member of the community crisis team, if not the crisis team, be connected to the community mental health center, so we have a seamless entry into follow up services, and there’s a support for those individuals who are in crisis, after the crisis happens... Our community needs to work hard at collaborating together and making sure that we have a great crisis system,” said Horsley.

Horsley said Oaklawn already has funding set aside to keep building their mobile crisis unit.