Law Enforcement Weighs in on Mental Hygiene Process - WBOY.com: Clarksburg, Morgantown: News, Sports, Weather

Law Enforcement Weighs in on Mental Hygiene Process

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CLARKSBURG -

"What if?"  Police officers ask themselves that question all of the time. It's a thought that crosses their minds more often now, as recent shootings brought discussions of mental health to the table.

"It's a constant worry in law enforcement that something may arise that puts the general public in harm," said Sgt. Jason Webber, of the Clarksburg Police Department Detective Division.

Sgt. Jason Webber said officers work with people in need of mental health care every day.

He said there are things officers and healthcare providers can do to get the mentally ill that help, but their options are limited.

"We go through the mental hygiene process and sometimes they don't meet the criteria to continue that process and get them evaluated and into different facilities out there. And then at that point for law enforcement, that's pretty much it," Webber said.

Almost anyone can file a petition for involuntary commitment in the circuit clerk's office.

"It's about a three page direct question and answer form where the applicant is trying to prove the individual meets the level that is necessary to commit. And again, that's dangerous behavior has been seen within 24 hours. And if commitment doesn't occur then someone has to be harmed or another person," said Robert Williams, Director of Behavioral Health Services at United Hospital Center.

The petition is then sent to a mental hygiene commissioner who determines if it's worthy to be heard. Most times, it doesn't meet that standard and the application is denied.

If the behavior does meet code, the commissioner orders a pickup order with the Sheriff's Department. A psychologist then meets with the individual for evaluation and decides whether or not commitment is necessary.

That information is then discussed at a mental hygiene hearing where the commissioner will ultimately decide to order or not order an involuntary commitment.

But Webber said it's the ones who don't meet those qualifications that law enforcement have the most trouble with.

"Who knows what steps were taken previously with some of these shooters that may have taken him off the streets or gotten those people the help that they needed," Webber said.

Sgt. Webber said his department sees a lot of people every day who need this help.

"The middle section of people that may not arise to being committed needs some more support," Webber said.

He said he hopes the new Highland Hospital will help fill that void.