Lebanon, NH (StatesNewsToday.com) – When dealing with the complex issues of crime and mental illness, law enforcement agencies and the courts have needed to become innovative in their approach. At the same time, first responders of all types have a higher incidence of mental health challenges than the public as a whole. The chief law enforcement and judiciary officials from New Hampshire and Vermont will discuss that need for innovation and those challenges in a special presentation Tuesday, June 11, at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon.
“Turning Lives Around: How Law Enforcement and the Courts Can Change the Conversation about Crime and Mental Illness,” is a presentation aimed, in part, at educating first responders about mental health in the broader community, and also, very importantly, what needs to be done within their agencies to assure that their own mental health needs are addressed. The presentation will be held from 5-7:30pm in Auditorium H. The community is invited to attend.
The focus of the event will be on how law enforcement and the courts can help change the conversation about mental health when mental health issues result in criminal behavior. Featured speakers include Vermont Attorney General T.J. Donovan, New Hampshire Attorney General Gordon MacDonald, Vermont Supreme Court Chief Justice Paul Reiber, and New Hampshire Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert Lynn.
“In my work on the R.E.A.C.T. campaign for Dartmouth-Hitchcock, and as a former chief justice of the New Hampshire Supreme Court, I have developed a keen understanding of the mental health challenges in our communities that law enforcement and the courts face,” said Dartmouth-Hitchcock senior director of Public Affairs John Broderick. “I now have a keen appreciation for the unique stressors that the law enforcement community deals with and encounters every day. This program is both timely and important, and all of us need to better informed.”
The event will open with a viewing of the “99 Faces Project: Portraits Without Labels.” The exhibit, designed by Boston-based visual artist Lynda Michaud Cutrell, is a six-month art installation at DHMC, and aims to break down the stigma associated with mental illness by using unlabeled photographs, videos, paintings and sculptures of people who experience mental health challenges and their loved ones.
“Bringing together both Vermont and New Hampshire’s Chief Justices, State Police, and Attorneys General in this forum is an important opportunity to further the conversation about mental health as it relates to the criminal justice system and members of law enforcement,” says NH Attorney General MacDonald.
Additional panelists include Ingrid Jonas, Division Commander in charge of the Support Services Division of the Vermont State Police, and Matthew Shapiro, Executive Major for the New Hampshire State Police. Thomas D. Anderson, Vermont Commissioner of Public Safety, will make closing remarks.
“Mental illness is a disease and should be treated as such,” says VT Attorney General Donovan. “We need to continue to raise awareness about mental illness in order to wash away the stigma that is too often attached to this disease. The 99 Faces exhibit will help point the way forward to a safer, more effective mental health system, and I’m proud to be part of it.”