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Marion officers receive intervention training

MPD putting emphasis on handling calls dealing with mental illness

MPD putting emphasis on handling calls dealing with mental illness

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MPD putting emphasis on handling calls dealing with mental illness

By RALPH HARDIN

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One of the often overlooked aspects of a police of_cer’s duty is dealing with an individual dealing with mental illness.

In an effort to ensure that his of_cers are prepared for such a situation, Marion Police Chief Brannon Hinkle sent several of his of_cers to specialized training on that very subject.

From March 29 to April 2, Marion police of_cers were at Mid-South Behavioral Health Systems in Jonesboro for Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training. CIT training teaches of_cers to properly respond to calls involving mental illness using the “Memphis Model,” while following the guidelines of Arkansas Act 423.

In 1987, police of_cers were called to an area of public housing in Memphis, Tennessee where a young man was threatening people with a knife. When police of_cers ordered him to put down the knife, he refused. The of_cers eventually opened _re and the young man died of multiple gunshot wounds. The man had a history of mental illness. He was black and the of_cers were white. Many citizens raised their voices in angry protest against the of_cers with cries of racism and police brutality. Calmer voices prevailed calling for the community to develop a better way to intervene with individuals in mental health crisis. The Mayor of Memphis turned to local advocates from the National Alliance On Mental Illness (NAMI) and enlisted police, community mental health professionals, university leaders, hospital administrators, and church of_cials to seek a new approach to working with persons with mental illness in crisis.

What emerged from this initial task force was the Memphis Police Department Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) that would become known in later years as the Memphis Model. The originators of CIT combined several insights that revolutionized how individuals with mental illness in crisis would be approached by police of_cers and effectively routed to appropriate mental health care facilities rather than jail. The CIT pioneers envisioned a team of uniform patrol of_cers selected for specialized training in basic crisis

See MARION, page A3

Marion Police Corporal Jon Lewis (CIT Instructor), along with officers Tara Sims, Rodney DeShields, Lindsay Cooper, and Quinton Price recently attended a week of training in crisis intervention in Jonesboro. The training is based on the nationally-recognized “Memphis Model” of crisis intervention.

Photo courtesy of MPD MARION

From page A1

intervention. The officers would be spread throughout the city on all shifts. These officers would perform the usual duties of uniform patrol officers but would be available for immediate dispatch to mental health crisis scenes. Arriving without delay, CIT officers would be able to de-escalating the crisis, decreasing the likelihood of violence and injury to patients, family members, neighbors and police officers. With assistance from other police officers, the CIT officer would assess the individual in crisis and make the decision whether or not to transport a patient for further evaluation. The receiving facility would offer a single point of entry with referrals to resources such as community mental health services, social services and Veteran’s services.

The efforts of the Memphis founders of CIT led to a network of over 2700 CIT sites throughout the nation. There is also a national organization which provides a forum Act 423 is a 2107 state law aimed at sending low-level probation violators, as well as delinquent parolees, to short-term lockups at county jails or to treatment programs rather than to longer- term, crowded prisons.

A central component of the law gives probationers and parolees as many as six “strikes” for violating the terms of their supervisions before they are sent to prison. Treatment-based lockups are operated by the Department of Community Correction, such as the facility in West Memphis in the old Crittenden Regional Hospital building. The act included pledging $6.4 million to fund four crisis centers for the mentally ill.

(CIT International) for CIT Programs to join together. The success of CIT throughout the nation is a testimony to the grassroots support generated to help those struggling with mental illness and the leadership provided by those determined to make a difference in their community. Involvement in CIT is voluntary and based in the patrol division of the police department. In addition, CIT works in partnership with those in mental health care to provide a system of services that is friendly to the individuals with mental illness, family members, and the police officers.

In their training, the Marion officers learned how to verbally de-escalade persons who are having a mental health crisis and provide them the local resources to help them become stable and return to normal life. To become CIT certified officer must attend a 40-hour CIT training course that consist of training on multiple mental health disorders and developmental disorders. Officer interact with people who attend various mental health treatment centers and complete a site visit to the Crisis Stabilization Unit in Jonesboro. Officers additionally receive instruction on involuntary commitment orders.

The week of training is finished with several hours of realistic role play in which officers must use the skills they have learned to de-escalate a situation. During the entire week officers are reminded that CIT is about building a partnership between Police, mental health, and emergency services to better serve the community. Officers who attended were Corporal Jon Lewis (CIT Instructor), Officer Tara Sims, Officer Rodney DeShields, Officer Lindsay Cooper, and Officer Quinton Price.

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