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Collier County tackles mental health issues in jails

David Lawrence Center teams up with CCSO
Posted at 10:42 PM, Jul 23, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-24 06:56:45-04

The father of a suspect who shot a Ft. Myers Police officer says his son suffered from mental illness.

29-year-old Wisner Desmaret had just been released from a Sarasota jail when he shot and critically wounded FMPD Officer Adam Jobbers-Miller Saturday.

The Collier County Sheriff's Office has been working with the David Lawrence Center to train first responders on dealing with mental health suspects or inmates.

"It's the road deputies, it can be EMS, firefighters, 911 dispatchers," said David Lawrence Chief Operating Officer Nancy Dauphinais.

First responders are also briefed on different medications, so they can know if someone is being treated for a mental health issue.

"Strategies for verbal de-escalation, so rather than agitating the individual further, ways to help the individual calm down." said Dauphinais.

The Collier Sheriff's Office and David Lawrence also launched a program called Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion, or "LEAD",  which allows a deputy to redirect offenders to community based treatment programs rather than going straight to jail.

"I think reducing the length of stay and increasing community based treatment and support is better for individuals," said Dauphinais.

Dauphinais says other law enforcement agencies have looked to David Lawrence as a model for how to train their officers to deal with suspects who have mental health issues.

But she says mental health patients are more often the victim of crime than they are the offender.

"They may be more likely to be homeless, to be abusing substances, and then be victimized in those ways, and we know that trauma is a huge factor."

Dauphinais she expects the demand for mental health in the jail and prison system to increase.

Her program is funded by the state of Florida and the court systems.