Every year the Mental Health and Recovery Services Board of Lucas County coordinates Crisis Intervention Training in May to provide area police officers the tools to appropriately address situations involving people with mental health disorders.
Scott Sylak, executive director of the board, said this year 26 officers and law enforcement personnel from Toledo and the region will receive Crisis Intervention Training May 6 to 10. Two trainees are from Sylvania Municipal Court. In total, the mental health board has trained 425 officers in the region, including police in Sylvania Township and the City of Sylvania.
The mental health board began the offering the free course in 2000 with the help of the Toledo Police Department. May is Mental Health Awareness Month.
“At that time a group of officers, including Ray Carroll, went to Memphis to learn about the program,” Mr. Sylak said.
He credited Sylvania Township’s Deputy Chief Ray Carroll, formerly part of the Toledo Police Department, for being one of the officers who brought back the best practices of the program initiated in Tennessee after which the program and others around nation are modeled after it.
More than 50 percent of township's patrol officers are trained in the crisis intervention, said Police Chief Robert Boehme. Of its 32 patrol officers, 18 are experienced in de-escalating situations using calming tactics when dealing with a person in crisis who is mentally ill.
“This program is very important. If you can speak to someone and get compliance, it is far superior to using constraint,” Chief Boehme said.
Chief Boehme said the department is focused on getting all of its road patrolmen trained in crisis intervention. However, this year’s course filled up quickly. Mr. Sylak said that because of the positive response, the board is considering holding a course in October.
“The training is designed to prevent injury to people with mental health and to avoid arrest because jail is not a place for them,” Chief Carroll said.
Chief Carroll spoke of situations he was in before he had the crisis intervention training. One time, he recalled, a mental-health patient escaped from a medical facility and walked into a home naked. When Chief Carroll arrived on the scene the patient was in the basement.
Once in the basement, Chief Carroll opened the door and a double-edged ax was thrown at him. “I slammed the door,” he said about dodging the weapon. He explained that because people with mental illness may have a higher threshold for pain, using force to wrangle a weapon out of someone’s hand, such as the ax, is not always effective.
Chief Carroll said that part of the crisis intervention training is taking time to deal with a situation. Officers learn about local resources available to people with mental disabilities, such as Rescue Mental Health Services in Toledo, and other mental health providers.
“If someone is disturbing the peace because of the psychiatric condition, the police escort them to a facility that can help them live a crime-free and productive lifestyle,” Mr. Sylak said.
As part of the training the officers meet with people who suffer from mental illness when they are not in a state of crisis to see how they may perceive police. Officers also learn the person’s point of view when they are in crisis or possibly off their medication.
“The officers learn how to not escalate a situation, and to not present themselves as a threat to someone that interprets authority as a threat,” Chief Boehme said.
Police are also educated about medication, and how to identify if a person may be off their medication and in need of a medical professional. Also people with mental health disabilities are told how to recognize an officer that has undergone crisis intervention training.
Mental health professionals tell their patients to look for the CIT pin when dealing with officers, or to ask for a CIT officer, Chief Carroll said.
Contact Natalie Trusso Cafarello at: 419-206-0356 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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