Local mental health official discusses handling intense situations

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (WNDU) – This is a story you’ll see first on 16 News Now.

A mental health professional said the community needs to work together when responding to situations such as the shooting of Dante Kittrell by South Bend police.

John Horsley, who has worked in Oaklawn for 11 years and a clinical social worker since 2001, said he thinks mental health professionals can be helpful in very intense situations.

In July, Kittrell was shot and killed by South Bend police officers after pointing what appeared to be a handgun at those officers.

Body camera and dash cam video shows negotiators trying to defuse the situation for nearly 40 minutes.

City leaders said officers used lethal force as a last resort.

“I think a mental health professional could certainly have guided, advised… It’s very moving and intense. You really want to bring the best possible expertise to these situations to try and get the best possible outcome,” Horsley said.

South Bend Police say the de-escalation training is very effective and officers did everything they could that day to get everyone home safely.

“I believe it has raised awareness of the intensity of these situations, and we have been aggressive in determining what additional training is needed…our mobile crisis team is well trained in response, well trained in assessment …have they received specific training when someone has a gun and there is a standoff with the police. Nope! but the training they have is helpful in these situations, and if we have to co-respond with law enforcement, we absolutely will,” Horsley said.

Horsley said mental health crisis teams are essential, which is why Oaklawn is currently building its Mobile Crisis Unit.

“I thought it made sense, and it makes sense in the future, that at least one member of the community crisis team, if not the crisis team, is connected to the community mental health center, so that we have seamless entry into aftercare services, and there is support for people who are in crisis, after the crisis has happened… Our community needs to work hard to collaborate and make sure we have a great crisis system,” Horsley said.

Horsley said Oaklawn has already set aside funds to continue building its mobile crisis unit.

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