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Mental Health First Aid course educates local court system personnel on signs, stigmas

Michael Mroziak, WBFO

The Erie County Department of Mental Health is hosting an all-day training program that will help many working within the justice system to better recognize the presence of  mental illness in many who pass through.

The training, which was designed through a national program, aims to educate people to better recognize the signs of mental illness and challenge the stigmas associated with it.

"Unfortunately, people with mental illness do find themselves in our jails, and in our court systems more frequently than some others," said Michael Ranney, Erie County Commissioner of Mental Health. "That's very telling of some of the work we need to do in the community, to help individuals remain in the community."

Among those invited to attend an all-day seminar Friday in downtown Buffalo were personnel from components of the court system including criminal court, family court, juvenile justice and private law offices. 

Ranney acknowledged how mental illness becomes a topic of discussion when violent crimes make national news. But among the the stigmas this program seeks to challenge is the notion of how often mentally ill people are committing those crimes.

"Actually, people with mental illness typically aren't the perpetrators ov violent acts," Ranney said. "In fact, 96 percent of violence is committed by people without mental illness. That means only four percent."

Most offenses committed by people with mental illness, Ranney stated, are lesser crimes including violations and misdemeanors.  

Michael Mroziak is an experienced, award-winning reporter whose career includes work in broadcast and print media. When he joined the WBFO news staff in April 2015, it was a return to both the radio station and to Horizons Plaza.
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