Marion County deputies receive training after increase in mental health calls

MARION, SC (WBTW) – The Marion County Sheriff’s Office says over the past six months, it’s seen an increase in mental health cases.

News13’s Kiahnna Patterson was at the Marion County Council meeting Tuesday morning, where Sheriff Brian Wallace told council about the problem and what the sheriff’s office is doing to help.

”We’ve always had issues with mental health but the last six months have been overwhelming,” Wallace explained to council.

Wallace specifically mentioned two incidents over the weekend. News13 received the incident reports. One incident involved a man lying naked in the road who left before deputies arrived. The other involved a nonverbal man found in a chicken pen eating one of his neighbors live roosters.

The sheriff’s office partnered with the Trinity Behavioral Care Organization to train about 20 deputies and correctional officers on mental health first aid. The day long class focused on ways to recognize mental illness.

CareSC instructor Brenda Petrucceli said this is the first time a sheriff has ever asked to teach all deputies.

“Through this training we hope that officers will be able to reason and kind of understand what that person maybe thinking. Or the effects whether it is a post traumatic situation or maybe not taking the right medication,” Wallace said.

Council member Troy Milton asked Wallace why the number of cases increasing were increasing and after speaking to deputies, the sheriff clarified that the problem is not drug related.

“When the officers respond to these locations, [they have to] identify whether this person may have a mental health illness or maybe under the influence of drugs or alcohol,” said Sheriff Wallace.

The sheriff’s office also partnered with Carolinas Hospital after an increase in pick up orders. A judge will issue a pick up order, for deputies to take people with mental illnesses to the hospital. The sheriff estimates deputies are picking up about 5-6 transport patients a week, which has been much higher than the last six months to a year.

Wes Knight, CFO of Carolinas Hospital System in Marion said the Hospital and County are working to ensure participation in the Medically Indigent Assistance Program (MIAP) this upcoming year.