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Poughkeepsie…Last week, 38 law enforcement and corrections officers, representing nine state, county and local departments, took part in a 5-day, 40-hour Dutchess County Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) Training, hosted by Dutchess County Government, the Dutchess County Sheriff’s Office, the Dutchess County Department of Mental Hygiene, the City of Poughkeepsie Police Department, and PEOPLe, Inc.. A graduation ceremony was held on Friday, June 26th in the Student Center at Marist College, located in the Town of Poughkeepsie, to recognize members of the New York State Police, Dutchess County Sheriff’s Office, Dutchess County Jail, Dutchess County Office of Probation & Community Corrections, and the Town of Poughkeepsie, City of Poughkeepsie, Town of East Fishkill, Town of Hyde Park and Town of Rhinebeck police departments who completed the training.
As part of the Dutchess County Justice & Transition Center project, special focus has been placed on efforts to divert individuals dealing with mental illness from entering the jail. The training is designed to help educate police officers on how to effectively interact with individuals in their communities who are in crisis due to behavioral health or developmental disorders, creating a partnership between the law enforcement, advocacy and mental health communities. The CIT training is part of the Dutchess County Law Enforcement & Community Training Initiative, which is modeled after the Memphis Model Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) Training. The initiative aims to train the 25% of county and local law enforcement field officers, who are mostly likely to interact with individuals with mental health issues. The remaining 75% of law enforcement and all county 911 dispatchers will be provided a shorter training program, Mental Health First Aid for Law Enforcement.
County Executive Marc Molinaro said, “The Crisis Intervention Team Training is a vital initiative that will help to redirect individuals in crisis situations from the criminal justice system and direct them toward community agencies that will provide them with the appropriate care and services they need. I congratulate the officers that took part in this week’s training and their instructors who provided guidance and resources on a variety of topics that will help our law enforcement officers better understand and communicate with individuals dealing with mental health issues.”
Sgt. Eric Weaver (Ret.), Executive Director of Overcoming the Darkness LLC, facilitated the week-long training. Experienced members of law enforcement and mental health professionals from New York State, the Dutchess County Department of Mental Hygiene and several community agencies led the training. Officers took part in training and role-playing sessions covering a wide range of mental health-related topics, including communication skills, understanding suicide/suicide intervention, substance abuse/co-occurring disorders, veterans’ mental health issues, and specific mental illnesses/personality disorders. Additionally, several panel discussions were held throughout the week that included individuals who have been directly affected by mental illness themselves or through a loved one.
Steve Miccio, Chief Executive Officer of PEOPLe, Inc. and Chair of the Criminal Justice Council’s Diversion Committee said, “This week has been a tremendous eye-opening and learning experience for the officers, trainers and program facilitators. The Crisis Intervention Team Training has proven to be effective because it not only provides law enforcement officers with the proper techniques to interact with individuals in the community coping with mental illness, but it also establishes partnerships with service agencies, like PEOPLe, Inc., to ensure the best possible result for long-term recovery and wellness.”
Rob Rolison, Chairman of the Legislature Rob Rolison, said, “As a former crisis negotiator for the Town of Poughkeepsie Police Department and member of a statewide group of police officers and mental health professionals who helped develop DCJS training on police interaction with individuals with mental health issues, I congratulate all of our participants who completed the Crisis Intervention Team training. I strongly support this training program because it encourages a collaborative approach that can improve interactions between law enforcement and those with mental health issues.”
The total cost for the CIT training was approximately $11,000, which was absorbed through the Department of Mental Hygiene budget. Additionally, the county will fund 50% of the costs to participating law enforcement agencies through the Municipal Consolidation & Shared Services Grant Program. The session also served as a “Train the Trainer” establishing additional individuals who can offer future training opportunities.
County Legislator Ken Roman said, “My experience serving in the Town of Poughkeepsie Police Department has allowed me to witness crisis intervention situations first-hand. The Crisis Intervention Team Training is a great model for our law enforcement because it allows them to gain a better understanding of what a person that is dealing with mental illness goes through. It also equips them with the appropriate communication skills to interact with them and de-escalate a potential crisis. This training will prove to be useful in the majority of situations the police encounter. I hope that someday we can provide this training to all law enforcement professionals in Dutchess County.”
Two additional CIT trainings are planned for later this year, one in partnership with Putnam County. Dutchess County has applied for a $250,000 grant through the U.S. Department of Justice’s Justice and Mental Health Collaboration Program, which awards funding to jurisdictions that plan, implement, or expand a cross-system collaboration program for individuals with mental illness or co-occurring mental health and substance abuse disorders who come into contact with the criminal justice system. If awarded, the county will use a portion of the funding to help cover the cost of future trainings.
In addition to future CIT trainings, the county is continuing with plans to open a Crisis Intervention and Wellness Center next year at 230 North Road in the Town of Poughkeepsie. The center will serve as a 23-hour stabilization unit, open 24 hours per day, that will give law enforcement officers the ability to bring individuals with behavioral health or substance abuse issues to treatment providers and services, diverting them away from the criminal justice system.
Some of the officers that completed the training offered this feedback:
“This was my second time going through CIT training, and I found it to be so beneficial the first time that I have actually gotten involved with coordinating this program and working with Steve Miccio and Eric Weaver to implement a team within the City of Poughkeepsie Police Department. This training has provided officers with resources and techniques that will help us to better understand different types of mental illnesses that will assist us out in the field,” said City of Poughkeepsie Police Officer Karen Zirbel.
“Through this training, we gained a better understanding of those dealing with mental illnesses in our community. We learned de-escalation techniques that will help us to better communicate with individuals who are dealing with mental health issues, allowing for future crisis situations to be resolved without using force,” said Town of Hyde Park Police Officer Sean Phillips.
Dutchess County Deputy Sheriff Russell Seymour said, “This training is very important, and we need to move forward as law enforcement officers to develop better techniques to deal with people in general, but particularly those that have limitations in cognitive abilities and behavioral issues. This training has given me a better understanding of what someone dealing with a mental illness is going through by taking an empathetic approach that will help to de-escalate crisis situations. The new crisis intervention and wellness center will allow for the diversion of individuals from jail, giving them greater access to resources such as substance abuse and mental health counseling.”
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