Nov 4     30 min read

How the SGPD Handle Mental Health Crisis

Updated: Dec 1

In this episode, we speak to Gil, an officer at the San Gabriel Police Department (SGPD).  He shares with us the trails and successes of working with individuals who are experiencing a mental health emergency.  With an increase in mental health related calls, the SGPD has improved their training to handle these cases.  They are taught to identify the signs and symptoms of mental illness and interact with these people.  The police officers are also trained on how to adjust the way they approach people with Autism and other Developmental Disabilities and identify their behaviors to have a better interaction with them.

Host Speaker  0:29 

Thank you for joining us for another episode of I am Able. The goal of our podcast is to bring awareness and acceptance to our communities. When working with educating and living with people of all abilities. Our co-sponsors our total education solutions, which provides a variety of educational, behavioral and therapeutic services to people of all abilities throughout the United States, and the Institute for the redesign of learning, which operates a number of educational and transitional services for people of all abilities throughout Southern California. According to the National Alliance on Mental Health, one in five adults in the United States experiences mental illness, one in 20 adults experience serious mental illness, and 17% of all youth ages six to 17. experienced a mental health disorder. Anxiety Disorders make up the highest percentage of all mental health disorders. Many mental health issues go untreated for a variety of reasons, including bad side effects caused by some of the medications used to treat these disorders, which cause individuals to skip their doses altogether. Additionally, there is a severe shortage of mental health professionals in the United States, which compounds the lack of treatment options. Thankfully, there are great resources available to agencies and schools regarding how to work with the individuals who are experiencing a mental crisis. Though it is difficult for the untrained individual to know when a person is experiencing a mental health crisis. The officers of the San Gabriel Police Department go through ongoing training to identify and work with these individuals. And to help them to get services they need. Banana Republic podcast we’ve have the privilege of talking with members of the San Gabriel Police Department. And they will share with us some of the trainings that officers go through, as well as some valuable information on what the community can do to help support them and individuals in our community who are facing a mental health crisis. Without further delay, here’s our moderator, Jamie.

Jamie:  2:50 

Hello, everyone. I’m Jamie Laura Tovar. And today with me is Gil from the San Gabriel Police Department. How are you today?

Gil:  2:58 

Very well. Thank you. Thank you for having me.

Jamie:  3:01 

Of course. Thank you for speaking with us today. We really appreciate it. So can you tell me about your role in the police department?

Gil:  3:09 

Okay, so currently, I’m assigned to the detective bureau on the crimes against person detective. I’ve been there about three years. But prior to that I was the the mental health officers. So what that means is I was teamed up with a mission from the Department of Mental Health. And together we would respond to all psychiatric emergencies in the city of San Gabriel, some of those around the community. And some of those were, a lot of times we would respond to the school districts. The school district would call us when they had maybe a student who was experiencing some sort of crisis or psychiatric emergency. And so we would go out there with them and, you know, do assessments and then at times, we’d have to maybe hospitalized place people on holds when we felt that they met criteria. But other times, we were hoping we were able to deescalate the situation and and also we would do follow up and and you know provide resources not just to the individuals but family members as well.

Jamie:  4:19 

Oh, wow. Okay, so So what kind of resources would you be able to provide the family members?

Gil:  4:26 

So some of depending on, you know, status and all that kind of stuff. I mean, if they were, if the family did not have insurance, we would connect them to maybe hos clinics, outpatient clinics where they can get outpatient services through Department of Mental Health. If they had, you know, they had a lot of our students, they had Kaiser insurance with the families that we would connect them to those services. There are sometimes we interacted with individuals were veterans. So we could connect them to, you know, the veterans, veterans affairs, Veterans Hospital, we had contacts with them as well. We also, you know, could connect some of our like, you know, transient population would always we could provide them with shelter locations for shelters. Some places they can go get food, some places where they can go get, you know, maybe take a warm shower, where they were able to wash the clothes and stuff like that. So it really depended on on the needs of the individual. So we had a, like, a huge selection of resources that we could connect these into base, depending on underneath of the individual.

Jamie:  5:51 

All right, nice. That’s, that’s really good. So knowing that mental health is a big crisis in our community, can you tell us about how your team trains now to work with people through these kinds of crises?

Gil:  6:09 

Sure, so obviously, mental health is becoming a it. I mean, it’s, it’s always been there, but it seems to be more as from the law enforcement perspective, we definitely are seeing an increase in mental health related calls, or a lot of times when we get called when the police gets involved, it’s usually because something has already, you know, escalated and, and maybe gotten out of control. But but some of the training, that the training begins from from when you start the academy, in the academy, we get two or three full days of training on, you know, mental illness, some of the symptoms, how to interact with somebody who’s having, let’s say, schizophrenia, depression, anxiety, there’s also some training, working with individuals with developmental disabilities, autism, Down syndrome, some of the behaviors that they exhibit that we as officers, you know, should be able to look at and identify so that we can adjust or the way we interact with with those individuals. So so that we can better you know, have a better interaction with with them. One, in order to graduate from the Academy. As officers, we have to or as recruits, you have to go through scenarios. And more more often than not, the majority of time, one of the scenarios will be a mental health related scenario where you actually have to, we have role players who will put you in a situation where you were you have come in contact with someone who’s who’s having a mental health, emergency or breakdown, and you as an officer are going to have to de escalate the situation and like, sometimes offer services. Once we get out of the academy, once you graduate, you actually you have the you know, you have your FTO process, training time when it’s Suzy about six months long when you’re with another officer, and during that time, your training officer will try to expose you to cause obviously, where you’re having to deal with individuals who were suffering with mental illness. And there’s also trainings, most of the officers, at least on a yearly basis, we get sent to a class or two, where we get to actually interact with individuals who, who who have, you know, depression, schizophrenia, autism, and you’re actually able to ask them in person like, what, what is it like to have schizophrenia? What is it like, when you’re hearing voices? And, and so it, aren’t you you actually get to, like I said, ask them questions directly. So, as officers we have, we can get a better understanding as to what it is that they are going through. We also get to talk to some of the family members. This obviously my illness doesn’t usually just affect that one person it’s not isolated to that individual is usually has an impact on the home life of everybody who’s there, the caretakers. This could be a very difficult thing to for everybody in the film, not just the actual person who is, you know, suffering from mental illness.

Jamie:  9:47 

Right. Exactly. Yeah. Yeah, it definitely is. It’s it’s something that affects everyone, that’s for sure. So you said in the in the starting in the academy that You are trained in, in recognizing different types of situations, whether it be anxiety or if it’s schizophrenia, or, or any some other types of health related issues. So what kind of signs do you look for when you’re dealing with someone that you think is having a mental health issue?

Gil:  10:23 

Okay, so, again, I think, I think usually when when police are involved, a lot of times, things have already escalated to the point where they’re actually in crisis at the moment. So usually, we get calls because people are walking into the, you know, into traffic, they might be responding to internal stimulus. So it sounds like they’re maybe talking to themselves, they might be hearing voices. They might be making comp statements like they’re, oh, people were out to get me to heart, they’re out to hurt me or army. So they’re having paranoid Criminy thoughts. And, you know, other other things like, perhaps feeling very sad, depressed, sometimes we respond to homes and individual might not be, it’d be showering might not be eating, these are all symptoms of depression, they might make, it might be threatening to harm other people, or hurt or hurt themselves. And so, so it’s our job to kind of, you know, as Officer, sometimes we want to de escalate the situation quickly and stuff like that. But when when we come across someone who’s, you know, in crisis, we need to learn how to slow things down. And, you know, maybe just be there and listen, and allow the person to, you know, to vent into, you know, it’s, so you got to be you have to be flexible. Things can, things can change very quickly. I mean, we can go from being empathetic to the individual, and then he or she can recognize a weapon or something like that. So you always want to, you always kind of have to be on your toes. But like I said, most of the time, I find, it’s usually things have already escalated to the point where, you know, we’ve had to be contacted. So, okay. But that does not mean that we can’t de escalate the situation, you know, so, you know, we’re, you know, the other thing that that happens on a regular basis, well, even this, this last year, we were to a LA County Sheriff’s came out and trained all of our staff on, they did like a half day refresher on mental health. And they actually have this very cool simulation device where, you know, they’re able to project a scenario onto the screen. And the the projection allows you to interact with green. So depending on how you, the officer interact with this person, it could actually escalate the scenario, or it can actually, you know, de escalate the situation. So even if we, we don’t do it right or correctly, the first time and things may escalate, it allows it gives us an opportunity to kind of reflect and to kind of say, perhaps I should have done this, and maybe do to do a debrief on on on the actual scenario.

Jamie:  13:48 

Oh, wow, that sounds really strange. Now, so were you able to go back and like if if the first time whatever the scenario was, were you able to like, hit the reset button and try again, to see if you could come up with a better solution? A second time where it was just like, one time, kind of?

Gil:  14:08 

Yes, it’s, they would put you to two or three scenarios. But each and every time you you were allowed if you weren’t allowed to do it again, but you were able to debrief the situation. Perhaps if you would have done this, we would have got this upper perhaps when he was telling you this, or she was telling you this, had you inquire a little bit more, they would have gone into more detail as to what was going on. So yeah, so it just like I said, allows us to kind of practice our skills in a controlled setting where, you know, hopefully nobody gets hurt, but obviously, it was a huge benefit to both ourselves. And and, you know, the people at the scene the people we contact in the future.

Jamie:  14:54 

Right, right. So it sounds like you really got to be like in the moment that it was yes, just this as realistic as it could be,

Gil:  15:02 

yeah, and you do feel the stress, you know, the anxiety when this guy is this guy or gal is, you know, screaming and yelling, and you actually even know, you know, it’s a, it’s just a video or it’s, it’s too still feels very real. And, you know, you so you do get those emotions, anxiety and all that kind of stuff. So, yeah, it’s very, very good experience. And being a med officer, I was able to experience that process multiple times, because I, I actually had a little bit more I have a little bit more training than than your, you know, standard officer, I was sent to more classes. LAPD does a one week course that that they put on, and the way it works for them is is the recruits they graduate from the Academy, and one year later, they bring them all back together. And they have a full week of training just on on mental health and, and working with people developmental. So I was able to get in on that class share if they have something very similar as well to do so. smaller departments, we kind of got to tag along in. Yeah, but very good. Very good experience. You know.

Jamie:  16:20 

Nice, nice. So earlier, you mentioned about like, a person having a mental crisis that may be walking through traffic, you know, yelling at them, and things like that. How do you handle that kind of situation where they are? Not necessarily I don’t have a weapon or anything, but they could, you know, be a danger to themselves or murder to others.

Gil:  16:48 

Okay, so what I usually do is I usually like to, you know, I usually try to ask them what their name is first. That’s just, that’s one technique that I kind of use, because it makes a little bit more personal. Frank, hey, can you can you come over here and talk to me, you know, I’m getting, you know, you’re in traffic. It’s making me a little nervous. You know, I don’t want you know, hopefully, and the majority of the time it’s a, it’s a, it works. It’s a good technique that I think has been, that has worked for me, but why don’t you come over and talk to me what’s going on? And just kind of may may go into telling me about their voices or the voices, I hear this and will tell me what the voices are telling you. You know. So, again, I think it’s because I have a little bit more practice with this being being the med officer. And, you know, prior to being a police officer, I used, I did 10 years in community mental health. So I little, you know, a little bit of a different background than most officers and I also worked five years with regional centers as well. So, so yeah, I think I feel a bit more comfortable working with this population. I think that, you know, when the chief when I developed this program, when he when he, you know, decided that he wanted a met 10% Gabriel, I think that’s one of the reasons he, he selected me because I think he he knew of my background, and he wanted somebody who, who, you know, who he thought would hopefully do a good job. And, you know, so ironically, I was I actually was not thinking about going that route, but he was like, nada, you’re gonna this this is, this is something that that’s important for the department is something we think that is going to be a huge benefit. And, you know, I guess you just you just saw into the future and thought that I would be a good fit. Right. And, you know, I, since me, there has been two other met officers, and I think it’s one of the most important positions we have in here in the department, I think, because a huge percentage of the cause that we deal with on a on a daily basis. I’m gonna say our mental health related, definitely. Yeah, a large percentage of, of the cause that we go to or, you know, transient cause mental health related calls and unfortunate Lee, a lot of our transient population as well to the they do also suffer from mental illness, you know, for preventing, you know, like we said earlier, I think it’s very tough for a family member to kind of have to, you know, be there 24/7 For someone who’s, you know, heavy, who has mental health issues, it’s tough. It’s really tough and a lot of times you know, they end up on the streets. Yeah, it’s just, it’s just hard and, and so So, yeah, it’s something that’s very common. And, you know, in this day and age, we’re having to deal with a lot of mental health related calls nowadays.

Jamie:  20:11 

Yeah, that’s, that’s a shame. So you, have you noticed an increase in mental health calls this year? Or is it just been basically a steady increase?

Gil:  20:25 

I think? I think it’s been, it’s been increasing. Definitely, this this whole COVID thing has not, I think it’s made things even worse, you know, right. You know, people are more isolated, you know, people are losing their jobs. It’s just been very hard on on everybody. And it’s just an added stressor, to to people’s lives. So people who are maybe, on the edge, this ray, this may have put them over the edge, you know, but definitely, there has been an increase in mental health related cause. I mean, like I said, I have family, I have young nephews who, who go to school as well. And I know, it’s been tough on them as well, too. You know, I mean, being home all day, not interacting with friends, and all that kind of stuff. So he, if you’re feeling isolated, this definitely would make you feel even more isolated. So, yeah,

Jamie:  21:32 

right. Well, so we’ve talked about some of the the, the issues with mental health, can you share with us some of your successes that you’ve had in this area? Yeah,

Gil:  21:49 

definitely. I mean, I think that, as a med officer, I like I said, I think it’s been one of the one of the most important programs that the department has put into place. I think that I mean, we, through Matt, we’ve been able to, you know, one of my responsibilities or responsibilities, my mind and my, my partner, who was the clinician with the Department of Mental Health, we’ve been able to do a lot of training in the community. So we did a couple of trainings that at the high schools on mental mental health and, and some of the symptoms and what to do, we’ve also done trainings in the community that things like the Citizens Academy, where members in the community also, were able to learn more about mental illness. And for that particular, for the particular trainings, I, I had someone from National Alliance for the Mentally ill, who would come in and talk to community members about resources. Part of my job as the Met officer was also to provide training to the other officers. Because I, like I said, I just happen to have a little bit more exposure to these types of calls. And because of the the background that I had, and because I had a clinician, who was my partner, we just happen to move a partner, we continuously would go to briefing trainings in the morning, and provide officers with the different types of training some of the resources that were out there, available to them, so that they can better help people when when they’re dealing without dealing with them in the community. So we also would do a lot of follow up, so we weren’t just responding when, when people were in crisis. That’s initially how we got the cause. But we would also then follow up we would go out to, to meet with these individuals after maybe they were placed on a hold on a psychiatric call, we would then go to their homes, talk to their families, provide resources to the families connect these individuals with services that they weren’t already connected with outpatient services. So, you know, we do a lot of a lot of follow up. And, you know, I’m, I keep thinking back of one particular scenario, in particular situation that that really gave me satisfaction was there was this, this gentleman who was a, a veteran of the armed services, and he had some PTSD stuff going on, okay. I remember contacting him multiple times. And I hospitalized him once or twice, I think and I remember being at a city event and him walking up to me and saying You know, thank you, thank you for what? You and your partner, you, you guys did for me because I think that day I was going to, I was going to end my life and you guys being and to me that was like, you know, that was pretty powerful. And yeah, so we never know what’s what the outcome is going to be, we just do our best and, but that day, it felt good that we were able to kind of intervene and, and, and the day that I had to place them on hold, you know, we kind of had to wrestle him down to the ground, it was not a, you know, to put them into cuffs because he had a, you know, a knife in his hand. And, but, but we were able to, you know, get him the help that he needed. And like I said, several months later, he came up to us and thanked us. And I thought, you know,

Jamie:  26:00 

it’s so great that you were able to help him and that he was able to come back and say, Thank you. Yeah, that must be like, Yeah, I would be like, just fulfilled for the day at least. Yeah. Just knowing that you. I mean, yeah, I mean, you you are in control of people’s lives every day. But yeah, to have somebody come back and say, Yeah, I know, you know. Yeah, they helped me, even when it was hard. Yeah, that was awesome. And a veteran of, of all things. That’s, that’s yeah. We’ve talked about people having mental health issues. What, what do you suggest for the public to do if they do happen to find somebody in the community that’s having a mental health issue? I know, I’ve seen that happen before where a person’s walking through traffic? And I’m just like, What do I do? Do I call 911? What? What Yeah,

Gil:  26:54 

I think what you what you should do call the police. I mean, we, we will respond quickly. And, again, our job is to try to de escalate the situation. I mean, and, you know, we have resources, you know, we have a, you know, we have a mat team, we have a mental health clinician who specialized and trained in these types of situations, scenarios. And, like I said, if, if, if we can help the person on the spot, we can try to come up with a solution. And, you know, that’s a good thing. But if not, and unfortunately, you know, sometimes we need to put people on hold on psychiatric holds, and take them to a facility where against their will, but with the intention of getting them the support that they need. You know, that’s the ultimate goal, the ultimate goal is for everybody to to be safe. And so yeah, definitely, this is something that we as officers, you know, are trained to deal with. And so, yeah, don’t don’t do not hesitate to call because that’s, that’s what we’re here for. We’re here to you know, hopefully, keep everybody safe. Yeah.

Jamie:  28:15 

Okay. All right. So what if it’s, you just see somebody that’s kind of like, walking down the street kind of yelling, and they’re, they haven’t done anything yet, but you think they may start darting into traffic? Do you have any suggestions? I mean, it seems like you wouldn’t want to call 911 at that point. Because they Yeah, done anything but

Gil:  28:42 

yeah, so so it doesn’t have to be 911 but you can call the station on our non emergency line. Okay. You can always we call a welfare check. We do them all the time. We do all the time. Hey, there’s a gentleman sitting on the curb never seen him before he’s he’s acting erratic he’s you know can you send somebody out you know we did again it the whole thing is we you know, we don’t want him to dart into traffic and maybe cause an accident get himself injured it like he said it’s not an emergency right now. But there’s absolutely nothing wrong with with us going out there and just do a welfare check. We just want to make a How you doing everything okay. We’re getting some calls at your you know, just want to make sure you’re doing okay is there anything we can do anything we can help you with? What’s your name? Just engage in a conversation there’s there’s absolutely nothing wrong and we do that every single day. So yeah, definitely call us we have no no problem coming out.

Jamie:  29:54 

Yeah. So call if we’re concerned. It’s not just keep calling them they Basically,

Gil  30:01 

It doesn’t have to be a crime, like I said, it’s just, you know, you’re worried you’re concerned for somebody’s well being, that’s it. And, like I said, we will come out for that, that’s, that’s something that falls within our scope. You know, so it doesn’t have to be just when something bad happens, we’re happy to come out. And just to make sure somebody’s doing okay, you know, and if there’s something we can do, perhaps their loss, perhaps, you know, it’s not until we contact that person that we actually, you know, sometimes there’s been occasions where, where we’ve contacted similar circumstances where we call somebody, and, you know, hey, what’s your name, we want a records check on them. And it turns out, they’re a missing person out of Baldwin Park or something like that. That happens, you know, they’ve, they’ve wandered off, and they don’t know where they’re at. So it could be it could be something like that somebody reported them missing. And, you know,

Jamie:  31:05 

okay, so you’re not being a busy body. If you’ve just see somebody that’s, that seems like they shouldn’t be there, they’re in the middle of something that we should just call a regular phone line and just live and let you guys know, and then you can decide what’s best. Okay,

Gil:  31:25 

until we contact them, you know, we won’t know what’s what’s going on. It could be nothing. But again, better to be safe than sorry. And like that scenario I gave you they could be missing from somebody somewhere else. And we could be helping them reunite with their families, you know,

Jamie:  31:41 

right. Yeah. I mean, how many times I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard on the news where somebody has gone missing. And they found them three days later on a bus. So you know, they wandered off they there was a split second, somebody was supposed to be watching them or something. And yeah, yeah.

Gil:  31:59 

Have a have, as a met officer as well. I had this this gentleman who is severely autistic and had a history of, of eloping from his from his residence, he would sneak up the windows and he’d be gone for a day or two and one one time he went missing for almost two weeks, you know, for you know, they put we did we put out a missing for him and someone in LAPD jurisdiction was able to, to locate him he was nonverbal. Oh, wow. Yeah. So it makes it extremely difficult. You know, they jump on a bus. Or they can go anywhere.

Jamie:  32:42 

Right. Yeah. Go Anywhere expectation, you can really go anywhere.

Gil:  32:48 

There. Yeah. So. So again, it’s it’s really not an inconvenience to us. So yeah, feel free to call in and like I said, you could be reuniting them with a family member a loved one, so.

Jamie:  33:05 

So is there anything else you’d like people in the community to know about dealing with people with mental health issues,

Gil:  33:12 

um, like I said, I just that it is mental health is a real, a real issue that affects a lot of people. People just because they suffer from schizophrenia and depression, they’re not, they’re not crazy. It’s, it’s, it’s a, you know, a physiological issue as well, you know, and so don’t be ashamed. I mean, if you have, you know, somebody, I want people to know that you shouldn’t feel ashamed. And that, you know, as a department, we’re here, you know, to support and to help, and if there’s anything that we we can do to connect you to services or anything like that we’d be happy to do so. You know, again, like we said earlier, it’s something that affects not just the individual, if it affects the whole family, right? It could be pretty draining on a loved one as well, who’s having to deal with their loved one who’s, who’s got schizophrenia, depression, and, you know, there needs to be some, some support for them as well, too. So, a lot of times we, when we do our follow ups, we want to make sure that they’re connected to to people like, you know, Nami, the National Alliance for the Mentally ill, where they can actually get support themselves for and how to better help their loved ones.

Jamie:  34:47 

Oh, wow. So it’s not just for the individual. It’s also for their caretakers and their family members. Oh, nice, though, because

Gil:  34:55 

like I said, it’s not just the individuals being affected by this and so we want to make sure that they, that they have the support that they need as well, too. So, yeah, we want to make sure that they get connected as well to, you know,

Jamie:  35:09 

how do you think the community could be more supportive to you and your fellow off officers?

Gil:  35:17 

I would just say I’m gonna say, just being open minded, I guess, you know, I mean, as officers, we we have to make split decisions. Right. Rather, rather quickly. I mean, things can go from zero to 100. Really quick. I think that I think that the majority, I think all the officers, we, as officers, we, we always, the reason we’re in this profession, I think, is because we want to help others. I mean, we’re in a profession of, of serving and serving others community and all that kind of stuff. And, you know, and so just just not be as maybe as judgmental. And just like, again, the intention is always to, you know, to have the best outcome as possible. It’s just a difficult time, I think for for law enforcement and just the world in general, I think it’s just just a difficult time for everybody. And so I think, you know, we’re, we’re, you know, we were trying the best as best we can at, you know, to, to deal with different things. And so, yeah, that’s what I would say, I mean, we want we want a positive outcome, just like everybody else, you know, our, we really do genuinely want to help you know, anybody who might be going to a psychiatric emergency for some officers that we’re able to see the signs a little, a little better, we’re able to deal with certain scenarios a little bit, but it’s more about, I think it’s in my scenario and situation, I would say, it’s because I just have a little bit more practice with it, you know, and, and, you know, part of my job as well is just to, is to pass on that pass on that knowledge that I have that information to, to some of my fellow officers who may or may not have been exposed to, you know, this population as much as I have, right. Um, yeah. And, again, going back to, to our chief, I think he, I think he looked in the future and there was no crystal ball. And he saw that, you know, that this, this is, this is a reality, you know, this is the future. And I think that’s kind of why he put me on the path that he did, because I think he’s, he was able to see that, that, you know, the knowledge that I had with, you know, ultimately hopefully benefit the department and make us a better department.

Jamie:  38:33 

So you said you have just one mad officer or there is there is

Gil:  38:41 

so so the city of San Gabriel Sanger Police Department has one at at the moment, bigger departments like the LAPD, they have met teams around the clock, you know, your sheriff’s department when I when I first became met, I think LA county sheriff had three or four met teams county wide. We’re talking from Palmdale, all the way down to the Long Beach border, they had three met teams for the whole county. That obviously is not enough. Now they have I’m gonna say Close to close to 100. I’m gonna guess. They also now have a call center out of Omani. Where they have a 24 hour triage where they can dispatch met teams at different stations throughout the county. I think almost every single city has a met team. Now Pasadena has two or three teams. Met teams. Yeah, they’re up. They got kind of a bigger jurisdiction. So they have a two or three met team as well. So it’s kind of like the norm now. You know, but like I said, because this has become such a prevalent issue in law enforcement. Almost every single department now has a mental health issue. component now.


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