GPD officer intervenes in mental health crisis that shut down I-70

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Greenfield police officer Danny Williams helps avert a crisis as a man sits on the edge of the Ind. 9 overpass of I-70. Thursday, Nov. 30, 2023.

Tom Russo | Daily Reporter

GREENFIELD — A mental health crisis issue shut down I-70 and Ind. 9 for some time early Thursday morning as officials from the Greenfield Police Department, Indiana State Police and Hancock County Crisis Intervention Team eventually helped a man who was in dire need.

Officials received word a person was sitting on the edge of the overpass at the intersection of Ind. 9 and I-70 Thursday morning around 9:15 a.m. That forced officials to shut down the major highway running through the county and to try and help the man.

“When officers arrived, the man refused to speak to them,” GPD Deputy Chief Chuck McMichael said in a release. “Officers quickly recognized this man was having a mental health crisis and needed help.”

Officers from the GPD and other responding departments went into normal protocol for dealing with these types of situations. Then shortly after 10:35 a.m. the incident ended with the male backing off, coming down from the concrete barrier he was sitting on.

An officer from the GPD, Danny Williams is credited with helping to save the man’s life after talking with him and convincing him to step away from the precarious situation.

Williams is trained in crisis intervention and continued talking to the man while other officers closed the eastbound lanes of I-70 and the northbound lanes of Ind. 9 for the safety of the man and the officers on the scene. After about 45 minutes, westbound I-70 was closed as well.

About an hour or more after arriving on the scene, the man stepped away from the barrier wall and was taken into protective custody and into a waiting ambulance.

“We are thankful for this outcome and the understanding and patience of the public during these road closures,” McMichael said.

The man, who has been identified as a Greenfield resident, is now getting the help he needs, McMichael said.

Williams has over two decades of police experience with the GPD and is the GPD D.A.R.E. officer. He normally works with students throughout the Greenfield-Central school district, trying to help them make good decisions. However, he has years of road and police experience. His training and passion for helping others were instrumental in making sure that Thursday morning’s situation ended as well as it did.

“Williams did a fantastic job this morning and likely saved the mans life,” McMichael said. “Nearly all of our officers go through a 40-hour Crisis Intervention Training class.”

The class covers many aspects of mental health issues, including depression, thoughts of suicide and substance abuse issues. Williams is the department’s coordinator for the program. He assists in setting up the class and teaches a part of it.

“He was able to keep this man talking to him and letting him know that he is not alone,” McMichael said. “We were there to help him and get him what he needed. Danny built a rapport with him and gained his trust. After over an hour, the man stood up and away from the wall and taken into protective custody for treatment.”

Williams has long been identified by GPD Chief Brian Hartman and others who work with him as the type of officer who makes a real difference in people’s lives. That was never more evident than Thursday morning when Williams and other officers helped a dire situation end peacefully.

Officials note that the holiday season can be difficult for many people for many reasons.

“People are often more isolated in the winter months due to the weather,” McMichael said. “This time of year, it’s important to reach out to family and friends to keep contact so they don’t feel alone. It’s good for you, too.”

Officials with the GPD want to remind everyone there are resources available, nationally and locally, if someone is struggling with depression or thoughts of suicide. People can call 988, the national suicide and crisis lifeline.

“You can call or text 24 hours a day,” McMichael said. “If you want to talk to someone face to face, you can always call 911.”

McMichael noted nearly every officer of the GPD is trained in crisis intervention, as are most officers in our county, and all are happy to help in any way they can. They can also help by providing resources.

“This incident could not have gone any better,” McMichael said. “We appreciate the support from our partners at the Hancock County Sheriff’s Department and the Indiana State Police for assisting and the Greenfield Fire Territory for providing support and care for the man once resolved.”