HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, approximately 26% of sheltered homeless adults nationwide suffer from serious mental illness.
The Honolulu City Council has taken note. The City Council is appropriating $300,000 for HPD officers to undergo training to better interact with those with mental health issues.
"When somebody is behaving erratically, maybe yelling or screaming, even being threatening, the police are the first there," said Marya Grambs, the Executive Director of Mental Health America of Hawaii.
She's knows too well how mental illness in homeless populations affect behavior.
"They're not behaving in erratic ways or threatening ways because they're bad people. They have an illness."
Honolulu City Council member Ron Menor, who authored the proposal says HOW an officer deals with a mentally ill person in a high stress, first response situation can directly affect the outcome of the interaction.
"It's not enough for them to fight a homeless individual or arrest that individual, but rather to get the individual to receive the kinds of services that he or she needs."
"With this kind of training, they know what the symptoms of mental illness are, and they learn ways to de-escalate," added Grambs.
The 300-thousand dollars was included in the budget bill Tuesday, all but guaranteeing it will pass. Once it does, the funds will then be distributed for the training in the upcoming fiscal year.
"If we don't take this kind of proactive approach in addressing the mental health issues of our chronically homeless, I don't think we're going to be resolving the issue any time in the near future," said Menor.