The LaGrange Police Department is hosting a Crisis Intervention Team Training session for agencies around Georgia. The 40-hour Crisis Intervention course is being taught through the Georgia Public Safety Training Center with guest lecturers all week. The program is to help police officers react appropriately to situations involving mental illness, develop mental disability, or emotionally disturbed persons.
The training is becoming mandatory and over 10,000 officers have taken the course in Georgia. All LaGrange Police officers have had the training and the Troup County Sheriff’s Office is working to have all deputies take the course as well.
The training was inspired by a 1987 incident where Memphis Tennessee Police officers shot and killed a subject with a knife who was going through a mental health crisis. The public outcry from the incident began a national discussion on how to most effectively deal with citizens going through a mental crisis.
Due to more and more mental institutions being closed, police are beginning to see an increasing number of calls for service to help with people going through mental health issues. Most of the time, the people causing these incidents are victims in their own right. They are victims of their own illness.
The Crisis Intervention Training attempts to create an alternative to incarceration so that the “consumers” can get the help that they need.
The goals of the training are to minimize risk of injury, get treatment for those who need it, and potentially avoid incarceration.
The Crisis Intervention Team is made up of public safety personnel, such as police or paramedics; family advocates, such as mental health courts; and community providers like Pathways.
The training is already providing dividends. Police say use of force incidents have dramatically declined. Part of that is from de-escalation techniques taught during the training, but it’s also because officers are seeing affected individuals as needing help, not jail.
The training is also making people more willing to seek help from police. Citizens are learning that police are better trained to help their loved ones going through crisis.
We’ve got a long way to go. Mental health is still a major problem in Troup County. LaGrange Police reported five attempted suicides in January alone. With an estimated 15 million mentally affected individuals in the United States, police have their work cut out for them. The good news is they now have a plan that seems to be working.