Saturday, January 20, 2018
Public safety

Pasco deputies to receive training to help those with mental illness

LAND O'LAKES — Thomas Scimone had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder a decade before he was killed. On Nov. 20, 2010, his sister said, Scimone stood in front of seven police officers in Suffolk County, N.Y., holding a single-shot antique rifle, unloaded. He was gunned down in the street with 42 shots.

His family took him off life support on Thanksgiving Day.

Pat Scimone-Almasy wonders if her brother's death could have been prevented with better education and resources. Now, she tells her brother's story during the National Alliance on Mental Illness' Crisis Prevention Training, a 40-hour program in which law enforcement officers learn how to respond to situations involving a person with mental illness.

On Tuesday, the Pasco County Sheriff's Office announced many of its deputies will undergo their first training in April at NAMI's new office on Land O'Lakes Boulevard. There, deputies will learn to defuse confusing, intense scenarios, where quick decisions are made and civilians and officers have both been killed in fire. The Sheriff's Office is looking to put 25 to 33 percent of its deputies through the training.

"This training helps our deputies differentiate between mental health problems and developmental disabilities and identify various symptoms of mental illnesses," the Sheriff's Office said in a prepared release. "We hope this will help lessen injuries to those suffering from mental illness."

Tuesday was also the opening of the first NAMI office in Pasco, at 6480 Land O'Lakes Blvd. The office, run by NAMI volunteers, will work as a free referral service for patients to find mental health treatment in the county, before they run into trouble with law enforcement.

Sheriff Chris Nocco stood in the front of the office at the open house and addressed about 50 NAMI members and supporters.

"How do we help those people?" he asked. "Unfortunately, our jail is not the solution. The solution is to help those people out. That's what we're here to talk about."

A survey by the Treatment/Recovery Information and Advocacy Database shows that 44 percent of people with mental illness have been to jail in their lives. An investigation by the Portland Press Herald found that of the 375 to 500 people shot in the United States every year by law enforcement officers, "at least half" have mental illness.

In Miami-Dade County, Criminal Court Judge Steven Leifman, a champion of mental health advocacy, helped divert $20 million intended for a new jail and used it to rehabilitate mentally ill criminals back into the population, according to a January story in the Miami Herald.

At the open house Tuesday, Lt. Larry Engle, who leads the crisis intervention training in Pasco, quoted the story when he spoke to the crowd.

"There's almost not a social ill that doesn't overlap with mental illness," he said.

Scimone-Almasy thought back on her brother Thomas, and how things may have changed if the officers in Suffolk County had been in NAMI training.

"What if they had just asked him a question?" she said. "'How can I help?'"

Contact Alex Orlando at [email protected] or (727) 869-6247.

Comments

Bicyclist dead after being hit by car in Pinellas Park

PINELLAS PARK — A bicyclist is dead after he was hit by a car just before 10 a.m. Saturday morning, police said.Police were still investigating the crash in the 8700 block of 49th Street N late Saturday morning.Police shut down northbound 49th Street...
Updated: 2 hours ago

Motorcyclist crashes into Subaru while trying to flee Pinellas deputies

CLEARWATER — A 21-year-old fleeing from deputies on a motorcycle crashed into car while speeding away from a cruiser Friday, according to the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office. Michael Brown, of Clearwater, was recklessly driving his 2016...
Updated: 2 hours ago

Clearwater man in critical condition after medical episode while driving

DUNEDIN — A 60-year-old Clearwater man who likely had a medical episode while driving is now in the hospital with life-threatening injuries after rolling over his car, according to the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office. A Largo police off...
Updated: 2 hours ago

Four people linked to Tampa carjacking captured hours later

TAMPA — It took officers just 27 minutes Friday night to capture four people who they said stole a car from its owner.The incident started outside the Ybor Coffee Shop at 5:45 a.m. A group approached the driver as he sat in his 2010 Toyota Corolla. T...
Published: 01/19/18

Florida National Guard soldier killed, five injured in Sebring crash

SEBRING — A soldier with the Florida National Guard was killed and five others were hospitalized after a multi-vehicle crash on Friday, officials said.The crash took place at about 1 p.m. at the intersection of U.S. 27 and Hammock Road.The soldiers ...
Published: 01/19/18
Two New Port Richey men accused of stealing $11,000 in cellphone merchandise

Two New Port Richey men accused of stealing $11,000 in cellphone merchandise

NEW PORT RICHEY — Two New Port Richey men face charges after Pasco County deputies say they stole about $11,000 worth of cellphones and cellphone equipment at a Metro PCS store on State Road 54.Robert Jackson and Ronald Hartshorn were arrested Wednes...
Published: 01/19/18
Autopsy: drugs found in MLB star Roy Halladay’s system after plane crash

Autopsy: drugs found in MLB star Roy Halladay’s system after plane crash

When former Major League Baseball pitcher Roy Halladay died in a plane crash in November, he had amphetamines, morphine and the sleep aid zolpidem in his system, according to an autopsy report. Halladay, 40, died from blunt force trauma with drownin...
Published: 01/19/18
Former youth football president accused of stealing $29,000 from Pinellas league

Former youth football president accused of stealing $29,000 from Pinellas league

PALM HARBOR — The former president of a local youth football league is accused of stealing thousands of dollars from the group and using it in part to buy a mobile home.According to the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office, deputies on Tuesday arrested L...
Published: 01/19/18
Rapper Kodak Black arrested in Florida on grand theft, other charges

Rapper Kodak Black arrested in Florida on grand theft, other charges

FORT LAUDERDALE — Rapper Kodak Black has been ordered held without bail in Florida on seven felony charges that include child neglect and drug possession.The Broward Sheriff’s Office arrested the 20-year-old rapper, whose real name is Dieuson Octave,...
Published: 01/19/18
DUI arrest: Tampa man mistakes bank drive-through for Taco Bell

DUI arrest: Tampa man mistakes bank drive-through for Taco Bell

SPRING HILL — A 38-year-old Tampa man was arrested Wednesday on a charge of driving under the influence involving drugs or alcohol after deputies said he mistook a Bank of America drive-through for a Taco Bell.The branch manager of the Mariner Boulev...
Published: 01/18/18
Updated: 01/19/18