BOISE -- The statistics can be overwhelming. In 2012, nearly 6,700 people in Boise called police to step in and help someone who was suicidal. That's about 18 calls a day. In the last five years, that's a 24 percent increase.
The Boise Police Department is taking on the issue of suicide prevention and wants to get people help long before their officers have to get involved.
Suicide is a serious issue that claims the lives of around 85 people a year in Ada County.
On Tuesday, Boise Community Ombudsman Pierce Murphy released his report on a police shooting that took the life of a man with suicidal tendencies. That report found the officers were justified in using deadly force. Now police want to make improvements to help people long before officers arrive.
The loss of a life is an important issue for us. We're paid to keep people safe, to represent them, not to end their lives, said Boise Police Chief Mike Masterson.
Ultimately, Masterson wants to get to the point where officers are not going out to the majority of calls where there is someone with suicidal tendencies. But to get to that point he says a lot of work needs to be done.
One of the things we're concerned about is stopping this increase, said Masterson.
There are a few approaches that Masterson and Murphy want to do to, not only bring that number down, but to help save more lives.
Starting in 2013, Murphy will review the city's Crisis and Intervention Model. That is the standard for how officers respond to situations where someone is suicidal. Murphy says that review process should take a couple months.
The goal will be to make this highly-effective model even better for our community, said Murphy.
Another angle of emphasis is getting more people to use the Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline.
Nina Leary survived a suicide attempt as a teenager. She now works as a volunteer counselor for the suicide hotline. When she took a handful of pills to end her life, she called a similar hotline.
He saved my life. I would not be here, said Leary.
She says in the three weeks since the Idaho hotline opened, she's already saved lives and the reason why is actually quite simple.
They just need somebody to listen, said Leary. They want somebody to hear them talk.
Murphy and Masterson agree. People who have suicidal tendencies need someone to talk to. So if they aren't a danger to others - they want to take officers out of the equation.
You and I know that then reduces the possibility that the outcome is going to be lethal, or the use of force, and I think everyone, the police department, my office, everyone in the city would like to see that happen, said Murphy.
Boise Police have officers specifically trained and are a part of the Crisis and Intervention Team. Right now there are 35 officers on that team.
The last two groups of new officers and all officers from here going forward will receive that training to help talk down those who have suicidal tendencies.
Right now, the Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline is only open Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The hope is to get more volunteers and funding to make it a 24-hour hotline.
The suicide prevention hotline phone number is 1-800-273-TALK.