(PEARL RIVER, LA) -- Police across the country say mental health-related calls are a growing trend, and the St. Tammany Sheriff's Office is now working to better prepare for those situations.
According to one survey by the Police Executive Research Forum, a research non-profit, new police recruits across the country on average receive about 60 hours to handle a gun, but only about eight to deal with people suffering from a mental illness.
Recent situations like a man wielding a machete in front of New Orleans City Hall are reminders of how mental health training is needed to keep a response from ending fatally.
While that incident happened in New Orleans, similar situations are part of the reason why the St. Tammany Parish Sheriff's Office is training deputies to be part of a crisis intervention team.
"When we respond to these calls they are very dangerous," St. Tammany Sheriff Randy Smith said.
24 deputies over the course of 40 hours at an STPSO training facility learned new tactics to handle mental health calls.
In training, deputies responded to live scenarios focusing first on calming individuals while maintaining a safe distance. The softer language may not be what some are used to seeing.
In one training scenario, deputies are sent to hold down a veteran with PTSD who had been drinking and acting out.
The training relates to a incident covered by Eyewitness News Investigator Katie Moore, where Army veteran Chris Cambre accused St. Tammany Deputies of beating him while he was struggling with PTSD. St. Tammany Sheriff Randy Smith says that isn't the reason behind the training.
"That's one of many cases but this training is to help prevent those incidents from escalating," Smith said.
However, Smith says this kind of training will help keep people with mental illness from getting detained or sent to the hospital, and will allow deputies to intervene and offer resources to get them the help they really need.
Training was paid for in part by the Department of Justice. The St. Tammany Sheriff's Office was one of four departments in the country that received the grant.