As the number of those dealing with mental health crises continues to rise across the nation, law enforcement officers across Missouri are completing trainings to improve safety and emergency response efforts.
Ozarks Healthcare’s Behavioral Health Center (BHC) recently conducted such a training for local law enforcement: BHC staff presented a 40-hour Crisis intervention training (CIT), which focuses on helping law enforcement officers learn how to approach and help individuals who are suffering from a mental health crisis. Personnel 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 class, which was held at the West Plains Police Department.
“The CIT training is an excellent opportunity for our officers,” West Plains Police Chief Stephen Monticelli said. “This training helps create connections 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 those in crisis, and provide them with more knowledge about mental illnesses.”
“This is the second CIT training conducted in our local area, and Howell County Sheriff's Office personnel have participated in both trainings,” said Howell County Sheriff Brent Campbell. “It is my goal to have all staff be trained in crisis intervention.”
He added that the opportunities provided by the training are many, including networking and gained knowledge of area resources within healthcare and social services systems, reducing injuries during interactions involving people with mental illness by using deescalation strategies, learning to recognize and implement new strategies when dealing with someone in a mental health crisis, and possibly reducing the number of repeat offenders within the criminal justice system.
Knowledge and resources gained at the training has already assisted members in both the patrol division and the jail, say program coordinators.
The CIT is part of a joint partnership between the Missouri Department of Mental Health, Missouri Behavioral Health Council, local community mental health centers and law enforcement agencies. BHC was granted a provisional CIT status in 2018, and is expected to become certified as a CIT Council within the year.
In addition to helping individuals who are in mental health crises, CIT is also focused on reducing the strain on officer-to-individual ratio for law enforcement agencies.
“CIT focuses on deescalation strategies, and redirecting the individual from the criminal justice system to the mental healthcare system,” said Mryiah Wallace, licensed professional counselor and Ozarks Healthcare BHC clinical manager. “In turn, the mental healthcare system provides directed and nonrestrictive accessibility to a full range of healthcare and social service options rather than incarcerating individuals which contribute to an already exhausted first responder community and crowding of the criminal justice system.”
CIT trainings across the state have already proven successful in increasing officer/citizen safety through a stronger understanding of mental health, reducing the time officers spend at hospital emergency departments, decreasing arrest rates and reducing recidivism, or repeated criminal offenses.
Ozarks Healthcare’s BHC will host its next CIT training in Wright County this fall and can accommodate up to 30 participants. Organizations who may be interested in having staff attend the training are encouraged to call Ozarks Healthcare’s BHC at 417-257-6762 for more information.
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