OSP’s Gebhart shares new training program

PIQUA — The quarterly meeting of the Governor’s Community Traffic Safety Network of Shelby County (GCTSNSC) met Tuesday morning. The meeting was hosted by Lt. Joe Gebhart, commander of the Piqua Post of the Ohio State Highway Patrol (OSP).

Gebhart provided a comparison of statistics from the first half of 2019 against the same period the preceding year. In virtually every category, OSP enforcement statistics in Shelby County were lower in 2019.

“We are finally at full staffing with 13 troops,” Gebhart told the members of the network. “As a result, I expect the numbers will change dramatically in the second half of the year.”

There were examples of increased activity. For example, the OSP investigated 152 crashes in Shelby County in 2019 compared to 123 during the same period last year. The OSP also assisted 898 motorists in the first half of 2019, compared to 845 the previous year.

One category that was down dramatically was the number of fatal crashes. In the first half of 2017, there were 10 fatal crashes. In 2018 there were 8. So far this year, just one fatal crash has occurred in Shelby County.

Gebhart also announced that the OSP would be working with the Sidney Police Department to conduct two DUI checkpoints in August. The location of the checkpoints, other than the fact that they will be in the corporate limits of Sidney, was not announced.

Sidney Fire Chief Brad Jones provided statistics for his department. Thus far this year, the department has responded to 2,055 calls. That compares to 1,984 incidents over the same period the previous year.

Of this year’s calls, 73.97 percent have been emergency medical service calls. That percentage compares to 73.18 percent of the calls during the same period in 2018.

Sidney Police Captain Bill Shoemaker reported the statistics for the Sidney Police Department. “We’ve been four patrol officers down, primarily due to injuries,” Shoemaker stated. “Four officers unable to perform can make a significant difference in what a department is able to do and not do.”

Not unlike the OSP, one category that was up was the number of accidents investigated. The department investigated 366 accidents in 2019 compared to 352 in 2018.

Calls for service decreased dramatically. There were 19,106 calls for service in the first half of 2018 compared to 16,142 calls for service in 2019 – a decrease of 15.5 percent.

Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) District 7 Deputy Director Randy Chavalley provided a listing of the estimated local gas tax revenues for Fiscal Years 2020 and 2021. Each municipality would see an increase, with Lockington being the lowest at $4,695 in additional revenue and Sidney the highest with $481,015 in additional revenue.

Other municipalities will receive varying amounts of additional funding from the tax increase, including Anna ($39,706), Botkins (32,414), Fort Loramie ($40,506), Jackson Center ($37,694), Kettlersville ($5,712). Port Jefferson ($9,001), and Russia ($17,743). The numbers are projected to increase slightly in 2021.

Sidney Mayor Mike Barhorst, who chairs the GCTSNSC, asked why each township in the state receives the same amount of money when some, like Clinton Township, have few miles of roadway to maintain.

“Each county and each township receives exactly the same amount of money, no matter the miles of roads they have to maintain or how many bridges they may have,” Chevalley said. “It’s always been that way.”

ODOT Shelby County Transportation Manager Jeff Marshall reported that beginning July 22 and extending for two weeks, pavement repairs would be made to I-75 near Botkins between mile markers 104.1 and 105.8.

He also noted that those present were being invited to attend a demonstration meeting on how to safely release the tension on the interstate cable barriers. The barriers are designed to keep out-of-control vehicles from crossing the highway and crashing into oncoming traffic. When a vehicle hits the barrier, the posts that hold the cable break and the cables flex, absorbing much of a crash’s kinetic energy.

“Unfortunately, a number of first responders have cut the cables and as a result, they have been seriously hurt,” Marshall said. “The cables have a lot of tension on them and with the additional tension added by the crashed vehicle stretching them, it’s like breaking a rubber band when they are cut – they snap back and the result can be disastrous.”

Gebhart presented a program on a new program being offered that provides mental health first aid training.

“Just as CPR helps you assist an individual having a heart attack, Mental Health First Aid helps you assist someone experiencing a mental health or substance use-related crisis,” Gebhart stated. “In the Mental Health First Aid course, you learn risk factors and warning signs for mental health and addiction concerns, strategies for how to help someone in both crisis and non-crisis situations, and where to turn for help.”

“I recently took the course alongside Sidney Police Chief Will Balling and Sidney Fire Department Lt. Rod Dyer,” Gebhart stated. “It is a great program, Gebhart said. “In fact, as I took the training, I thought back to all the different incidents during the course of my career that I could have handled a whole lot differently had I had the training sooner.”

“There are three different modules. They include Mental Health First Aid for Public Safety, Mental Health First Aid for Fire/EMS, and Mental Health First Aid for Military/Veterans,” Gebhart said. “I went ahead and became a certified trainer in all three areas.

“When you take the course, you learn how to apply the Mental Health First Aid action plan in a variety of situations, including when someone is experiencing a panic attack, experiencing suicidal thoughts or behaviors, exhibiting non-suicidal self-injury, experiencing acute psychosis including hallucinations or delusions, experiencing an overdose or withdrawal from alcohol or drug use, and reacting to traumatic event,” Gebhart said. “I would encourage all law enforcement and first responders to take the course, as well as corrections officers and 911 dispatch staff.

“We can and must do better,” Gebhart said. “Nearly one in 10 police calls involve someone with mental illness. This program can make a real difference.”

The next meeting is scheduled to be held on Oct. 15. It will be hosted by Shelby County AAA CEO Deb Barga.