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Law enforcement, mental health prepare for Crisis Intervention Training session

The Center for Mental Health and law enforcement agencies in Montrose and Delta counties will continue their co-responder partnership with Crisis Intervention Training, or CIT.

A 40-hour training is slated for Feb. 21–25 at the Delta Family Center and each law enforcement agency will send four staff members.

The training provides local law enforcement agencies with the opportunity to learn how to respond more effectively to crisis situations, especially those involving mental health or substance use issues, and to practice those skills in a classroom setting.

Crisis Intervention Training is a community partnership designed to:

  • Increase officer and citizen safety;
  • Minimize the use of force and unnecessary arrests;
  • Promote diversion from jail to community-based mental health treatment when safe and appropriate.
  • Intervene early and proactively to reduce chronic calls for service.

Participants improve their abilities to:

  • Recognize and understand crisis states, mental illness, substance use disorders, and related conditions;
  • Deescalate crisis using advanced verbal communication skills;
  • Access community-based support services.

According to the instructor, Jeff Santelli a retired law enforcement professional, role-playing scenarios help participants to practice their skills and hone their approach to de-escalating crises.

“A cornerstone of CIT training is the extensive use of highly realistic and emotionally intense role-playing scenarios using professional actors to portray people in crisis. Participants report that this is where the real learning occurs,” he said.

Departments with staff trained in CIT are skilled at responding to crisis calls. Dispatch staff is trained to identify these calls and to appropriately dispatch CIT-trained officers. CIT-trained officers use de-escalation techniques and assess whether an individual needs to be seen by a mental health professional. Mental health providers work with law enforcement to assist with that evaluation and referral to other services, as needed.

In Montrose and Delta counties, individuals are often seen at The Center’s Crisis Walk-In Center for evaluation and if appropriate, can be treated for up to five days at The Center’s Crisis Stabilization Unit. This option helps get community members the right help at the right time and reduces the likelihood that someone will be arrested when they are experiencing a mental health or substance use crisis.

Recently, a Delta County Sheriff’s Office deputy responded to a call for assistance with an individual experiencing both visual and auditory hallucinations.

“I immediately began using CIT skills. Using a calm, even voice, as we learned in the training, I expressed concern, compassion and asked for cooperation,” the deputy said.

“The individual was highly agitated, but through affirming body language and active listening, I was able to establish trust and that I genuinely cared for them and had no other motive but to keep them safe.”

The deputy worked with the individual and their family to get them help that day saying.

“I sincerely believe my CIT training greatly contributed to a successful outcome in this crisis,” the deputy said.

Through the existing co-responder program, behavioral health services respond with law enforcement to certain calls, when it is safe to do so, to keep those who might be in a mental health crisis out of jail, and to free up law enforcement resources.

In December of 2021, the behavioral health and law enforcement teams responded together to 79 calls, provided 12 crisis assessments in the field, and connected many individuals to resources.

To learn more about Crisis Intervention Training or the co-responder program with local law enforcement, please contact Laura Byard, Regional Director at The Center for Mental Health at 970-252-3200.

If you, or someone you know, is living with suicidal ideation, waiting is not an option — your prompt response could save a life. Call The Center Support Line at 970-252-6220 or visit our Crisis Walk-in Center at 300 N. Cascade Ave., Montrose, both open 24-7 every day of the year. The Colorado Crisis Services Line can also be reached at 844-493-TALK (8255) or text “Talk” to 38255.