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DPS officers receive training for interacting with the mentally ill in crisis situations

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Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Training of Dept. of Public Safety (DPS) officers on alternative approaches to individuals with mental illness in crisis, was among the Office of Protection and Advocacy for the Disabled’s (OPAD) “Education and Training on Mental Illness” programs last year, according to the Governor’s State of the Territory Comprehensive Report distributed to lawmakers last month.

The report notes the government’s commitment “to provide our senior citizens and people with disabilities the opportunity to pursue meaningful and productive lives and thrive in a fully inclusive society.” (See Samoa News edition Jan.  28 on achievements in 2021 for senior citizens, through Territorial Administration on Aging.)

The governor’s report explains that the Protection and Advocacy for Individuals with Mental Illness (PAIMI), is one of the 8 federal programs administered locally by OPAD, whose federal mandate is to protect and advocate for individuals with disabilities in American Samoa.

The report summarizes programs dealing with education and training on mental illness including two programs for DPS officers. It says that PAIMI was approved to coordinate a training of DPS officers on alternative approaches to individuals with mental illness in crisis.

One outcome of the training has been DPS reaching out to PAIMI to seek assistance with referrals and also directly to other agencies such the Department of Human and Social Services. And more training is requested to be ongoing.

According to the report, DPS officers also received training on the legal rights of PAIMI. This training covered the basics of mental illness and the ways in which to approach and communicate with individuals in the community and the different mandates and the local law as it impacts individuals with mental illness.

Additionally, more training is planned for the next police academy. Furthermore, this training will continue on with DPS at their in-service training as well as with the Academy training of new recruits.

Training and education of DPS officers on dealing with local residents with special needs has been an issued raised by lawmakers and others in the community in the past years. And it was again raised last month when marking the one-year since the Lemanu-Talauega Administration took office.

Advocates for the disabled and others in the community have also queried Samoa News on what the Administration has done in the last 12-months to address the needs of local residents who are disabled.

Samoa News will report later in the week on the rest of the programs cited in the governor’s report.