March 2009

Lt. Ryan Kidwell & Sheriff Michael Heldman

Hancock County Sheriff Michael Heldman decided to make a difference. So did his Jail Administrator, Lt. Ryan Kidwell. 

When Sheriff Heldman began his career in law enforcement in 1972, an officer’s interaction with a person with mental illness usually was limited to serving probate orders or transporting the person to jail, court or a psychiatric hospital. There was nearly always a physical altercation involved. The Sheriff was convinced that there had to be a better way to deal with people with mental illness. Sheriff Heldman’s mother-in-law suffered with depression and was often debilitated by her illness. Heldman and his wife knew the challenges faced by a person with a mental illness first hand and understood that it wasn’t something you “just get over.”

In 2002, Sheriff Heldman had an opportunity to send a couple of his deputies to visit the Memphis Police Department, the birthplace of Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training, to

learn about the program. CIT is a street-based, pre-arrest jail diversion program with its goals being officer safety and treatment for the individual in crisis. Officers who participate in CIT are equipped with the skills to recognize the symptoms of mental illness and to de-escalate situations involving individuals with mental illness who are in crisis or out of control. After the visit, Hancock County was sold on CIT.

Lt. Ryan Kidwell assumed his duties as jail administrator after the former administrator, Capt. Susan Beach, passed away from an extended battle with cancer. Capt. Beach had been committed to bringing a CIT like program into the jail setting to assist jail personnel in the same manner that CIT assists law enforcement officers on the street. In 2006, after her death, Lt. Kidwell made Capt. Beach’s goals regarding CIT his own.

A jail death in 2006 served as the final impetus to provide the leadership and training needed to ensure the safest interactions between Sheriff Office jail personnel and persons displaying symptoms of crisis often related to mental illness and/or substance abuse. “For people who are incarcerated and have a mental illness, jail isn’t a long-term solution as professional psychiatric treatment intervention isn’t always available,” said Heldman. He and Lt. Kidwell started to look at how the crisis intervention team training for street officers could be applied to the jail setting. Lt. Kidwell worked directly with the local crisis intervention planning committee in making the necessary adjustments to the street training so that CIT training was a perfect fit for the jail setting. 

"You can't find a better risk management technique than CIT. Don't be afraid of CIT.  It can only make your life easier and your day safer."


Today, all Hancock County Sheriff Office dispatchers, deputies, correctional officers, supervisors and various administrators are required to partake in the 40-hour crisis intervention team training. “There was an initial reluctance by officers, feeling that the training would make them appear weak and vulnerable rather than an authority figure in control of any given situation. There was a feeling that officer safety was no longer being considered. It took a couple trainings before the officers were able to see that the techniques of CIT really do work,” said the sheriff. “Since officers have been required to get the additional training, they have learned that physical contact isn’t always needed. Since the time Tasers were implemented there have only been two occasions in which they had to be used during a CIT call. The officers are handling situations in a different way. The de-escalation techniques help them in all their interactions and communications, not just those involving individuals with mental illness,” continued Heldman. Sheriff Heldman is proud of all his staff for giving CIT a chance and embracing its concepts.

Heldman and Kidwell remember the “old” days and welcome the opportunity to fight the stigma of mental illness in law enforcement and corrections. “Every sheriff, law enforcement officer, corrections officer, supervisor and administrator hold officer safety as a number one priority. Crisis intervention team training results in removing the element of injury from officers, inmates, and individuals with mental illness in the community. You can’t find a better risk management technique than CIT,” said Heldman supported by Kidwell. Sheriff Heldman’s message to other law enforcement officers, “Don’t be afraid of CIT. It can only make your life easier and your day safer,” seconded by Lt. Kidwell with an “Absolutely!”

Editor’s Note: Hancock County has more CIT-trained officers than any other county in Ohio.

In 1981, Congress established the Institutions for Mental Disease Disproportionate Share Hospital (DSH) Program to help ensure that states provide adequate financial support to hospitals that serve a significant number of low income patients with special needs. In 1996, the state began claiming DSH funds. Each year since then, claims have been made for services provided to low income persons in certain public and private freestanding psychiatric hospitals. These are commonly known as Institutions for Mental Disease (IMD) DSH claims.

Each year Ohio receives about $55 million in reimbursement for the IMD DSH claims. The vast majority of these claims are attributable to services provided in the state mental health hospitals operated by the Ohio Department of Mental Health (ODMH). For some unexplained reason, rather than go to ODMH, the DSH funds are directed to the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services where they are used to pay for health care services, including services provided by Medicaid. 

“As the Department of Mental Health’s financial circumstances continue to deteriorate, now is the time to direct these funds where they belong -- to ODMH -- so that they can be used to benefit the individuals whose care generates the revenue in the first place,” said Jim Mauro, NAMI Ohio Executive Director.


Stigma Busting ChallengeSpring is here! Give a package of Iris bulbs to a neighbor or friend with a note: The Iris is a symbol of NAMI in recognition of the many contributions of those with mental illness, as represented by Vincent Van Gogh’s paintings of irises during his hospitalization for mental illness.