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Feb 14, 2023

Retraining Police Officers on Dealing with Mental Health Persons

Melissa Diaz-Musa

Two weeks ago, we reported to you about the death of a San Pedro resident, who it is believed was suffering from a mental health condition. The details of how she was restrained with chains and padlocks later led to her demise, and she died from positional asphyxia. Multiple attempts were made to get medical help for Nicole Polonio, but even the police were turned away from the family. Within the last year, the Ministry of Health and Wellness has been strengthening a mental health policy and access to care, diagnosis, and treatment for persons with mental illness. Today, a two-day training was held with the Belize Police Department to manage mental health crisis. Director of Public Health Services, Doctor Melissa Diaz-Musa, spoke to the media about the importance of the training.

 

Dr. Melissa Diaz-Musa, Director of Public Health Services, M.O.H.W.

“We made a commitment to the police department, working along with the Ministry of Human Development as well, that we will form a crisis management team. And this team will enable us to address certain situations especially when you see persons with mental illness on the streets or in homes that cannot be cared for. So we are working together to try to strengthen, well to create this team to strengthen the collaboration with the other ministries and we want to start with retraining all police officers – not only in the Belize District, but countrywide regarding ways to address, to monitor or to deal with situations that escalate especially when persons are having mental health crisis.”

 

Reporter

“Is this the first time that police officers are being trained?”

 

Dr. Melissa Diaz-Musa.

“No, a mental health police manual was done, I think, in 2007; it was revised in 2014 and we have been doing training. It forms a part of the training, but it I, I would say, the first time since the pandemic. And since we’ve been trying to strengthen this aspect of the mental health issues in Belize. Today we have forty police officers who are undergoing a two-day training not only to discuss managing mental health crisis, but also we are trying to ensure that we also know how to care for our mental health. So it is a self-caring training as well. Police officers deal with very stressful situations on a daily basis so this will help with regards to. So we have a nutrition aspect, we have counselling as well and just the information regarding how to approach a patient, how to deal with mental health issues and how we can better respect our population who suffer with mental illness.”


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