As the number of people dealing with mental health crises continues to rise across the nation, law enforcement officers across Missouri are training to improve safety and emergency response efforts.
Ozarks Healthcare’s Behavioral Health Center (BHC) recently conducted training for local law enforcement. BHC staff presented a 40-hour Crisis Intervention Training (CIT), which focused on helping law enforcement officers learn how to approach and help individuals suffering from a mental health crisis. Personnel from the West Plains Police Department, Howell County Sheriff’s Department, Texas County Sheriff’s Department, 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,” said West Plains Police Chief Stephen Monticelli. “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.”
Knowledge and resources gained at this training has already assisted members in both the Patrol Division and the Adult Detention Center. 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 various law enforcement agencies. Ozarks Healthcare’s Behavioral Health Center 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 de-escalation strategies, and redirecting the individual from the criminal justice system to the mental healthcare system,” said Mryiah Wallace, licensed professional counselor and BHC Clinical Manager. “In turn, the mental healthcare system provides directed and non-restrictive 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.
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 staff attending the CIT are encouraged to call Ozarks Healthcare’s BHC at 417-257-6762 for more information.