New WRAL Documentary Examines Law Enforcement Interactions with the Mentally Ill

WRAL Documentary

When law enforcement officers are called to help with a mentally ill person, sometimes the results are tragic. The new WRAL Documentary “A Call for Help” examines one family’s story and why interactions between law enforcement and the mentally ill are increasing in North Carolina.  The documentary, hosted by WRAL News anchor Lynda Loveland, airs Thursday, October 23 at 7 p.m.

Reforms to North Carolina’s mental health system that began in the early 2000s were designed to move the mentally ill out of large institutions like Raleigh’s Dorothea Dix Hospital, and into privately run, community-based facilities. Development of those private beds fell short leaving many mentally ill people without care. As a result, calls to 911 for help are frequently answered by law enforcement officers who are trained to deal with criminals, not with mentally ill people in a crisis.

Keith Vidal

Keith Vidal

“A Call for Help” examines a case that occurred on January 5 when the parents of 18-year old Keith Vidal of Boiling Spring Lakes, North Carolina called 911 for help because their son was having a schizophrenic episode. Law enforcement officers responded and one of the officers shot and killed Vidal.  The incident is a tragic example of what can happen when police and deputies encounter people with mental illness.

That’s happening more frequently in North Carolina as the state tries to move the mentally ill out of large institutions and into privately run, community-based facilities, There is a shortage of those facilities and as a result a call for help for a mentally ill person often winds up being answered by law enforcement officers, most of whom are not trained to deal with mentally ill people in crisis.

WRAL Documentary

Deputy transporting mental patient

In addition to examining the Vidal case and the issues it raises, “A Call for Help” looks at Crisis Intervention Team training which is designed to help officers avoid calm crisis situations and avoid violence when interacting with a mentally ill person. WRAL News anchor Lynda Loveland, who hosts the documentary, participating in some of the CIT training.

In addition to next Thursday night’s broadcast on WRAL, “A Call for Help” airs on WILM-TV in Wilmington on Friday Oct. 24 at 7pm and FOX-50 on Saturday November 1 at 4pm.  It will also be available for on-demand viewing on wral.com beginning next Thursday night:

Lynda Loveland

Lynda Loveland in police CIT training.

Statewide Broadcast Schedule

  • WRAL-TV/Raleigh – Thursday, October 23 at 7 p.m.
  • WILM-TV/Wilmington – Saturday, October 24 at 7 p.m.
  • WRAZ-TV/Durham – Saturday, November 1 at 4 p.m.

To watch a preview of the documentary, go to http://www.wral.com/ and search: WRAL doc.

The documentary will also be available for on-demand viewing any time after the premiere television broadcast on October 23.

Thanks to WRAL-TV’s Clay Johnson & Debbie Tullos for this capcom story & to WRAL-TV’s Jay Jennings for these capcom photos.

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