Caltagirone bill to provide training to police and judges on mental illness, intellectual disabilities and autism passes House, heads to Senate

HARRISBURG, Feb. 24 – State Rep. Thomas Caltagirone, D-Berks, said the House passed his legislation that would provide training for law enforcement training and judges related to individuals suffering from mental illness, intellectual disabilities and autism within the criminal justice system.


Under Caltagirone's bill, H.B. 221, police officers and the minor judiciary, such as magisterial district judges, would receive training on the recognition and proper de-escalation techniques to be used when interacting with individuals with mental illness, intellectual disabilities or autism.  The bill also calls for instruction on diversionary options for these individuals.


"Incarcerating individuals with mental illness, intellectual disabilities or autism is not always the best option," Caltagirone said. "This bill addresses the issue on the front end by providing our police and minor judiciary with more early-detection training so they can identify these individuals as quickly as possible.


"Moreover, with proper training our law enforcement officers may be able to avoid dangerous situations if they can quickly identify an individual experiencing a mental breakdown and use proven crisis intervention techniques to de-escalate a situation."     


Caltagirone added that according to recent estimates, over 50 percent of all female inmates and more than 20 percent of all inmates in state prison receive mental health treatments. 


"I am encouraged by the swift action taken by the House to pass this bill. I will continue to work closely with the state Senate to help enact this bill into law," said Caltagirone.


The bill, which has broad bipartisan support, is under review by the Senate Judiciary Committee.