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Meade County Sheriff's mental health training hinges on commissioners

A Meade County Sheriff's Office patrol vehicle (file)
Meade County Sheriff's Office
A Meade County Sheriff's Office patrol vehicle (file)

A recent meeting of the Meade County Board of Commissioners temporarily tabled a grant that could provide lifesaving law enforcement training.

While the grant is by no means dead, advocates say the crisis intervention training could be a game changer in difficult situations.

The Meade County Commission punted the proposal with only a single member absent, wanting to defer action without the full commission.

County Sheriff Pat West said this critical incident training takes a full work week.

“It’s a 40-hour training block for law enforcement – basically how to respond to people facing a mental health crisis," West said. "It helps our deputies out in the field to hopefully de-escalate and get them more level so we’re able to talk to them and figure out what’s going on so we can handle things without having to use force.”

The grant would require the department to make an additional hire, which would only be partially covered by the grant funding. West acknowledged county purse strings are tight all over the state but said this hire could make a difference for every single officer.

“This person that we’re trying to get through this grant will be certified and trained up to basically train the trainer," West said. "Then, we can bring that individual back to train our entire sheriff’s office, then also incorporate that training in the jail facility for correctional officers themselves.”

West said times have changed over the decades of his career, and local government needs to keep up to save lives.

“The main thing is de-escalate this craziness going on in these people lives to hopefully bring them home safe and get them pointed in the right direction so they can get some treatment and some ability to talk to somebody to work through that," West said. "I’m hoping this training is going to help our deputies make sure we can help people in Meade County and also keep our own people safe.”

The next Meade County Commissioners meeting is slated for Tuesday, Nov. 28.

C.J. Keene is a Rapid City-based journalist covering the legal system, education, and culture