Judges, police to get more mental health training

Written by Ben Allen and Radio Pennsylvania | Jul 20, 2015 6:38 AM

Photo by Courtesty of Pennsylvania Office of Administration

(Harrisburg) -- Certain judges and police officers could receive more training on how to respond to people with mental illness, intellectual disabilities and autism.

A bill signed by Governor Tom Wolf requires training for magisterial district judges every six years.

It does not specify how frequently police officers will have to take classes on the topic.

Democratic Representative Thomas Caltagirone (CAL-teh-jeh-rone) of Berks County says those who need the help shouldn't go to prison, they should get help...

"The federal government picks up that tab, by the way. But identifying the individuals and directing them to treatment programs will result in, I think, better outcomes and significant financial savings to the taxpayers of Pennsylvania."

Caltagirone says far too many people with mental illness end up behind bars, which he says makes it difficult to provide effective treatment.

The bill sponsor, Democratic representative Thomas Caltagirone (CAL-teh-jeh-rone) of Berks County, says his proposal came after he heard from those who see those who need help every day...

"I dare say that there's a very good percentage of them that probably shouldn't be there and the judges keep telling me well we have no other place to put them. And I thinking we need to find other places so that they can be treated properly and not in a prison setting."

Caltagirone says he hopes to help people while saving money for the state's prison system.

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