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Mental Health Unit director Dr Hazel Othello during the Joint Select Committee meeting on mental health yesterday.

The Ministry of Health is developing a training programme for police officers to teach them how to properly treat with people with mental health disorders.

This is according to director of the Ministry’s Mental Health Unit, Dr Hazel Othello who spoke during a Joint Select Committee (JSC) meeting on mental health yesterday.

Committee member Esmond Forde asked the team representing the Ministry whether the policy had been developed already and what was the timeline for rolling it out.

“With respect to a timeline, unfortunately, I can’t give you that at this time because the pilot project was rolled out, the curriculum has to be accredited so once that is done, the project can be rolled out in a more holistic manner,” Dr Othello responded.

However, she said the Ministry does currently provide information on general aspects of mental health that police officers should be aware of, including specific training in control and restraint or prevention and management of aggression and violence.

She said the Ministry has been training officers with this programme for several years.

“We teach them to de-escalate situations so instead of taking…I don’t want to use “aggressive” but learning how to use tone and mannerisms in a way that gets the person’s confidence and gets the person to comply in a safe manner, reducing the risk of harm to the patient.”

Dr Othello said the training was both theoretical and practical.

She said municipal police officers were also being trained as a number of homeless people also have mental disorders.

“We are doing it through all 14 municipalities and as long as they are willing to participate, we are more than willing to roll it out in Tobago as well.”

She said the Ministry is also working on a National Mental Health Information System that can be used to monitor diagnosis, use of restraints and involuntary admissions for mental health disorders across the country.

Her response came after Forde asked about the contents of a 2018 World Health Organization Assessment Instrument for Mental Health Systems (WHO-AIMS) report.

“Even before the WHO report, we had already identified that need and we had already begun to work on it so we are currently in the process of setting up a National Mental Health Information System,” Dr Othello said.

However, she could not give a timeline for the completion of the system.