Law enforcement officers complete crisis intervention training

Staff Report

Rosecrance awarded state certificates to 24 law enforcement officers from five area agencies March 2 after they completed Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training, which educated them in identifying and appropriately responding to individuals they encounter on the job who may have a mental illness.

CIT training, which dates back to 2004 in northern Illinois, promotes community safety, said Judge Janet Holmgren, presiding judge of the Juvenile and Specialty Courts Division of the 17th Judicial Circuit Court. Holmgren spoke at the graduation ceremony and awarded the certificates.

Officers who encounter people who are in crisis get trained in de-escalation techniques, which ensure safety of the officer, the person in crisis and the community as a whole,” Holmgren said.

Officers who took the 40-hour training were from the Winnebago County Sheriff’s Department and the cities of Rockford, South Beloit, Genoa and Sycamore. The graduation brings to more than 250 the number of law enforcement officers who have graduated from the training over eight years.

Police departments look to these “behavioral health specialists” to respond to 9-1-1 calls and other situations that involve someone who is showing signs of a mental disturbance. The goal is to train officers to recognize when mental illness is playing a role in a disturbance or crime and to divert people who need behavioral health help away from jail or the courts, when appropriate.

Darin Spades, a 17-year veteran of the Rockford force, said he left the Rosecrance training with better skills to deal with people he encounters on the job who have a mental illness.

We were trained in a variety of mental health-related topics, including legal implications and the connection between mental illness and homelessness,” he said. “Some signs of mental illness closely mimic symptoms displayed by people using hallucinogenic drugs.

This training taught me the telltale signs and symptoms of mental illness to help me make more effective and informed decisions,” Spades added.

The Rosecrance program is one of only four such state-approved trainings in the state. The others are in Chicago, southern Illinois and central Illinois. The state-sanctioned curriculum requires officers to receive training in various areas, including the following:

How to recognize common types of mental illness;

How to understand the experiences, viewpoints and concerns of clients; and

Listening skills and intervention strategies.

Mary Gubbe Lee, who conducts the annual CIT training for Rosecrance, commended law enforcement agencies for the “huge commitment” they make to their communities by sending officers to be educated in behavioral health issues. CIT training has helped hundreds of individuals receive appropriate treatment through the years rather than being incarcerated or getting involved in the court system.

From the March 21-27, 2012, issue

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