DAYTON — It’s been six months since the Oregon District mass shooting that claimed nine lives.
Now, the Dayton Police Department is working to prepare officers for the next critical incident.
News Center 7 was there for the first required mental health class that’s part of a series designed specifically for Dayton police.
The classes were put together by leaders with Kettering Health Network and Wright State University’s psychiatry department.
Chief Richard Biehl said the goal is to make sure his officers are healthy — both physically and mentally — after responding to the mass shooting.
“They saw bodies all over the place, people suffering, bleeding in crisis,” he said. “Just because we put a badge on doesn’t make us invincible.”
He admitted, however, there are some officers who think otherwise.
“‘I can handle anything. When people need help, that’s when I show up! I’m the helper, I don’t need help.’ All flawed ways of thinking,” Biehl explained.
The classroom curriculum is designed to address the long-term mental hurt and pain of first responders.
Biehl and others involved in the program hope that the classes will fight stigmas against mental illness and mental health issues.
“To see it as an injury, just like a broken arm or a broken leg. There’s nothing shameful about it,” said Dr. Randon Welton, one of the class presents and a member of WSU’s psychiatry department. “It will decrease your function for a while, but with proper care and proper treatment, you can return back to your normal function.”
Currently, the Dayton Police Department is paying for the classes. But federal dollars could soon be used to increase mental health training.
That’s thanks to a bill, co-sponsored by Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown, that’s finding bipartisan support.
The proposal would help local officers better understand how to respond, interact and deescalate situations with people who show signs of mental illness.
Biehl said bottom line he wants to see police officers better recognize the signs of mental distress and know where to go to get help healing those mental wounds.