Eleven law enforcement officers from nine different departments recently completed the Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training, sponsored by the Four County ADAMhs Board and NAMI Four County.

This was the 11th training that the ADAMhs Board has coordinated in the last eight years. A total of 163 law enforcement officers from area police and sheriff departments, as well as probation, corrections officers and chaplains have been trained in techniques that have been proven effective for de-escalating crisis situations involving mentally ill persons.

During the week-long training, a variety of mental health topics are presented to help participants recognize when they are dealing with a situation that may involve someone with a mental illness and understand how mental illnesses are treated, as well as the types of medications that may be prescribed.

Drena Teague, who has coordinated all of the trainings, said a lot of time is spent explaining and demonstrating how someone with a mental illness behaves when they are experiencing a mental health crisis. The instructors’ presentations are supported by a panel of family members and persons with a mental illness who explain how they act and respond to others when they aren’t doing well. The panelists also explain how they would like to be treated and interact with others, including law enforcement.

During the week, participants learn that the assertive skills and approaches that police officers have been trained to use in a crisis will often make a crisis involving someone with a mental illness worse.

Instructors for the training included Napoleon Police Chief Dave Mack and Detective Jamie Mendez, and Bethany Shirkey with the ADAMhs Board. The CIT program was developed a number of years ago by the NAMI affiliate in Memphis, Tenn., and the city’s police department following an incident involving a mentally ill person that ended tragically. Today, the program is widely used to teach police how to safely and humanely handle calls that involve someone who is mentally ill.

With more than 160 law enforcement officers now trained in CIT in Defiance, Fulton, Henry and Williams counties, family members or friends of a loved one with a mental illness are encouraged to tell the police when they need help if the situation involves someone with a mental illness and request a CIT-trained officer if the department has one on duty.

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