The majority of police officers have not been trained to handle defendants with mental illnesses.
The Head of the Criminal Investigation Bureau of the Department of Public Safety, Captain Pou Supapo said at the American Samoa Behavioral Health Summit most of them have not received any training to deal with criminal cases involving people with mental health conditions.
She expressed the hope that DPS will soon change this by making training in this area available for the police force.
Captain Supapo was responding to a question from a woman with a mental condition who sympathized with police officers at the Territorial Correctional Facility when handling cases such as hers.
She asked who will look after them when the only psychiatrist on island takes a vacation.
The woman said she has been in and out of the TCF because of her mental issues and she considers herself lucky to have survived her episodes and is still alive.
Organizers are hopeful the Behavioral Health Summit to be a starting point for discussions and improved awareness of the state of mental health issues and services which will lead to long lasting change.
Dr. Jueta McCutchan, Clinical Psychologist for the Department of Human and Social Services said the summit was an effort by committed local individuals who saw a need for the community at large to encourage sharing and talking about these issues.
A condition that is on the increase and was discussed in one of the sessions was schizophrenia.
Other than DHSS, other departments and organizations which hosted the summit are Youth and Women Affairs, Office for Protection and Advocacy, PAIMI Progam, Window of Hope, the Alliance for Strengthening Families, Department of Health Community Mental Health, Department of Veterans Affairs Vet Center and Developmental Disabilities Planning Council.