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National Alliance Of Mental Illness Pushes For De-Escalation Tactics After Three In-Custody Deaths

Newly graduated San Diego Police officers attend Psychiatric Emergency Respon...

Photo by Matthew Bowler

Above: Newly graduated San Diego Police officers attend Psychiatric Emergency Response Team training at the force's academy at Miramar College, Sept. 13, 2017.

NAMI Pushes For De-Escalation Tactics After Three In-Custody Deaths


Cathryn Nacario, CEO, NAMI San Diego


In the last four months, three men—Earl McNeil, Vito Vitale and Jason Allen—died shortly after being arrested by law enforcement agencies in San Diego County.

In each case, there were common threads: the men were suspected of having a mental health or substance abuse issue and in each case they were restrained.

"It's heartbreaking. It's absolutely heartbreaking. We have to change the lens in which we look at people who are living with a mental health condition," said Cathryn Nacario, CEO of the National Alliance on Mental Illness San Diego chapter.

RELATED: Workshop To Discuss Ethnic Stigmas As Barriers To Mental Health Care

NAMI San Diego is one of several organizations pushing for law enforcement agencies to use more verbal strategies rather than physical restraints and other potentially lethal tactics to de-escalate interactions with vulnerable populations. The organization said restraints can contribute to a psychiatric crisis.

RELATED: Mental Health Advocates Concerned By Loss Of Inpatient Beds At Tri-City

NAMI has also advocated for banning the use of restraints in some hospital systems.

"The Hospital Association of San Diego and Imperial Counties started collecting data on the use of restraints after there were some incidents that occurred at hospitals where deaths had unfortunately happened after the use of restraints. Most hospitals now have a zero tolerance policy for the use of restraints," said Nacario.

RELATED: Police Restraint And Protocol In Question After In-Custody Death

Nacario sat down with KPBS' Jade Hindmon to talk about the ways the organization is helping law enforcement improve interactions with people having a psychiatric emergency.

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