As the number of people facing mental health crises continues to rise across the country, Missouri law enforcement officers are undergoing training to improve safety and emergency response efforts.
Ozarks Healthcare’s Behavioral Health Center (BHC) recently conducted such training for local law enforcement: BHC staff presented a 40-hour Crisis Intervention Training (CIT), which aims to help law enforcement officers learn how to approach and help people suffering from a mental health crisis. Staff from the West Plains Police Department, Howell County Sheriff’s Office, Texas County Sheriff’s Office, Christos House and Missouri State Highway Patrol participated in the course, held at the dept. West Plains Police Department.
“CIT training is a great opportunity for our officers,” West Plains Police Chief Stephen Monticelli said. “This training helps to bond with law enforcement and mental health professionals to provide the best possible outcome when dealing with community members in crisis. This training will provide our officers with more resources to help people in crisis and provide them with more knowledge about mental illness.
“This is the second CIT training held in our area, and staff from the Howell County Sheriff’s Office attended both trainings,” said Howell County Sheriff Brent Campbell. “My goal is for all staff to be trained in crisis intervention.”
He added that the opportunities offered by the training are numerous, including networking and learning about the region’s resources within the health and social service systems, reducing injuries during interactions involving people with mental illness using de-escalation strategies, learning to recognize and implement new coping strategies with a person in mental health crisis, and possibly reduce the number of repeat offenders within the criminal justice system.
The knowledge and resources gained from the training have already helped members of the patrol division and the prison, program coordinators say.
The CIT is part of a joint partnership between the Missouri Department of Mental Health, the Missouri Behavioral Health Council, local community mental health centers, and law enforcement. BHC obtained provisional CIT status in 2018 and is expected to be certified as a CIT Council within the year.
In addition to helping people in mental health crisis, CIT also focuses on reducing the strain on the officer-to-individual ratio for law enforcement agencies.
“CIT focuses on de-escalation strategies and redirects the individual from the criminal justice system to the mental health system,” said Mryiah Wallace, Licensed Professional Counselor and Clinical Director of Ozarks Healthcare BHC. “In turn, the mental health system provides directed and unrestricted access to a full range of health care and social service options rather than incarcerating individuals who contribute to an already depleted first responder community and to the backlog of the criminal justice system.”
CIT trainings across the state have already been successful in increasing officer/citizen safety through better understanding of mental health, reducing the time officers spend in hospital emergency departments, lowering rates of arrest and to reduce recidivism or repeated criminal offences.
Ozarks Healthcare’s BHC will host its next CIT training in Wright County this fall and can accommodate up to 30 participants. Organizations that may be interested in having personnel attend the training are encouraged to call the Ozarks Healthcare BHC at 417-257-6762 for more information.
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