A week of specialized crisis management training for local police, emergency personnel, corrections employees and others wrapped up Friday afternoon with a graduation ceremony at the Ferguson Township Municipal Building.
Training for the Centre County Crisis Intervention Team helps law enforcement and other local agencies respond to those with mental health crises in a more effective, compassionate and safe capacity, CIT coordinator Tracy Small said.
“We are basically training them on crisis de-escalation skills and giving them a better idea of the resources available in the community for people with mental or behavioral health issues,” she said.
The focus at the beginning of the week is to learn techniques and skills and about mental health disorders. Participants also learn how to deal with calls involving juveniles, veterans and those with substance abuse disorders, Small said.
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At the end of the week, they practice the skills learned by running through scenarios, Small said. Some of the scenarios are based on actual calls that have been received in Centre County.
State College Police Chief Tom King and Centre County Correctional Facility Warden Richard Smith described the training as “critical.”
At the graduation ceremony, Smith spoke to the unique role corrections plays in the process. While it is a team effort between law enforcement, medical personnel and mental health providers, prison can sometimes be an end to the process, and mental health issues among inmates are common, Smith said.
Corrections staff have to be able to speak to those people and help them, he said, and the training has assisted personnel at his facility in the past.
The training is also beneficial because it allows personnel within the agencies to meet and gain an appreciation for what they do, Smith said, and helps them work together better.
“The wonderful thing about CIT is that it brings all of us together,” he said.
Calls involving people with mental health issues are common, King said.
“It’s critical our officers are trained to de-escalate any situation with their mouth — by talking,” he said.
It is also important for officers to know what services are available and what the best course of action would be for an individual after de-escalation, he said.
King said about 30 members of his department have undergone the training, and the goal is for all to undergo the training.
The number of total graduates of the program grew to 187 after the graduation Friday. It was the ninth such class and the program is held twice a year. The next class is scheduled for June, Small said.