In 2016, in an effort to expand police awareness of mental illness, Attorney General Mike DeWine implemented an expansion of the mental health component of police cadet training throughout the State. This meant that, from that year onward, all classes of Police Officers Basic Training Academy at Hocking College would feature four-hour sessions in which consumers and family members would give cadet insight into how mental illness affects both family members and consumers. That spring and fall, Tom Walker of the NAMI Athens Board of Directors and the SE Ohio CIT Committee, was in charge of organizing those sessions.
The fall session featured Berea College graduate/musician Darrin Hacquard and Nurse Donna Lechleiter – talking about how bipolar disorder had interrupted their lives and how they were overcoming it – as well as a family panel with NAMI Ohio President Anne Walker and NAMI Athens President Adrienne Nagy discussing what it’s like to be the mother of a person with mental illness.
“This session appears to have achieved its purpose,” said Walker. “The cadets paid close attention and asked great questions,” he added. “I thought they were especially thoughtful, respectful and sincere,” said Nurse Lechleiter. All participants volunteered to do it again in 2017. And Hocking Police Academy Commander Roger Deardorff ask Walker for the participants’ hard mail addresses so he could thank the four formally.