SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — The director of a mental health clinic in Savannah is grateful his patient walked away unharmed after an encounter with police.
Abdul El-Amin is a licensed counselor and has been for 40 years. Last Thursday, he called 911 for a patient to be transported to a psychiatric facility after what he described as manic behavior.
“This person was exhibiting some psychotic behavior, they were very manic, very high-strung, manic behavior,” El-Amin said. “And they mentioned some vague suicidal ideations.”
“When I got there, the individual was very loud, very agitated, delusional,” he continued. “The staff person that had already left said they were kind of fearful. And said that for the first time working, that’s the first time that they felt like they might have been in a little danger.”
El-Amin said he has seen similar situations in the past, but not to this caliber. The counselor said the patient grew agitated when officers arrived, pointing a BB gun at them.
“They were very patient with this gentleman to make sure that there was no harm brought to that particular person,” El-Amin said. “I told the officer’s sergeant that I was very impressed that they did not shoot this man. And I’m glad that we were able to get out, he was able to get out, this situation alive. Because it could’ve gone a lot worse.”
El-Amin explained that officers were able to de-escalate the situation using tasers and a stun gun.
At least 20% of all police cars involve a mental health crisis, according to the American Psychological Association. As that number continues to rise, El-Amin said it’s important for police forces nationwide to undergo crisis intervention training.
In 2020, the Savannah Police Department introduced a Behavioral Health Unit to better respond to mental health crises. According to the department, as many as 750 officers are trained in crisis intervention through a 40-hour program.
“For them to have the training is significant, it’s important because they are the first ones securing it when it gets out of hand,” El-Amin said. “Here in Savannah, on this particular time, the system worked.”
El-Amin said the patient is now in a local psychiatric facility getting the help they need.