WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) - According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness of West Central Indiana, or NAMI, Director Pattie Wollenburg about one in four people has a mental illness. It's a statistic West Lafayette Police Officer Jeffrey Decker sees almost daily.
"We run into it a lot," Decker said. "There's a lot of people who have mental illness and the average person is not even going to know. They may be on medication and they're managing it well, but they might just have a little break in the day."
Decker is on West Lafayette's Crisis Intervention Team Board. He trains officers in how to deal with people with mental illness. That training got him noticed by Wollenburg and now the state.
He is being awarded NAMI's Gloria Goeglein Award for Public Policy. It's given to the law enforcement officer, judge, or legislator who is leading the way for mentally ill people.
"It's a good feeling, but it's a team effort," Decker said. "It's not any one person who has done this. We have a board and we have a whole group that's worked many, many years."
Wollenburg said Decker's efforts are helping stamp out the stigma on mental illness, and getting people who need it help. She said they are not always going to get the help in jail.
"People tend to think someone with a mental illness is going to be violent, and that is totally untrue," Wollenburg said. "If you have that disorder you're more apt to harm yourself than you are anyone else."
Wollenburg said as more psychiatric hospitals close some patients have no where to go, but the streets. She said the biggest institutions are now prisons and jails.
"It's up to like 70 percent of the population is mentally ill," Wollenburg said. "I think we need to get treatment in the jails."
"I think now we have a lot better understanding of what mental illnesses are," Decker said. "Jail isn't always the right answer. It's finding doctors."
Decker will receive his award next month.
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