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JPD, CCSO to undergo mental health training
The Jonesboro Sun - 9/20/2017
JONESBORO - With the opening of a new crisis stabilization unit on the horizon, the Craighead County Sheriff's Office and Jonesboro Police Department will train to better deal with suspects who face mental health issues.
Craighead County Sheriff Marty Boyd said officers who admit patients to the new crisis unit must, under Arkansas law, complete the training.
"In order for a person to be placed in the unit, a crisis-intervention-trained officer has to make that suggestion," Boyd said. "It is in statute, it was part of Act 423. Each department of more than 10 officers must have a crisis intervention officer."
The two departments will each send six officers to 40-hour crisis intervention training, beginning Oct. 16 at Mid-South Health Systems in Jonesboro. When certified, those 12 officers will make up the city/county crisis intervention team.
"Myself and Chief (Rick) Elliot are going to create a crisis intervention team task force which will consist of my department and Jonesboro police," Boyd said. "With 12 officers trained throughout the county, hopefully we will have someone available and on-duty 24/7."
JPD public information officer David McDaniel said the departments will work together to provide other on-duty officers with a member of the crisis intervention team to perform an evaluation when a situation arises.
"The goal will be for there to be trained response officers who are already on duty that will be able to respond to where the emotionally disturbed person is located with the officer that requested the evaluation," McDaniel said. "The member of the CIT that responds will have the authority and the ability to place the person in the facility for further treatment."
The class will focus on identifying mental illness, separating mentally ill suspects from people under the influence and de-escalation techniques - working to diffuse often already tense encounters.
"A lot of it will be mental health awareness and identification - how to identify someone having a crisis versus someone who may be intoxicated or on drugs," Boyd said. "What actions to look for, is that person a danger to others or themselves, or are they having a crisis where they need some outpatient services."
Training will also decrease wait times for people needing assistance. McDaniel said persons with mental illness can currently wait up to two days for an assessment. Officers often have to drive the person to Little Rock, which also taxes resources.
"One of the main benefits to the CIT and facility is the immediate access of resources to the person and officers," McDaniel said. "Typically a person in need of mental health care would have to wait, which might be hours or a day or two, to be evaluated and if treatment were recommended an officer would then be tasked with transporting that person to a facility In Little Rock, which is currently done on a regular basis."
Mid-south Health Systems, in conjunction with the Arkansas Commission on Law Enforcement Standards and Training and National Alliance on Mental Illness, will provide the class. Boyd said he believes the training will be of great value to officers in both departments.
"The mental heath training aspect of it is definitely something we have needed for a while," Boyd said. "There has been some crisis training out there in the past that I have taken, like mental health first aid and things like that, but this is in-depth training that will really allow these officers to better identify mental illness and what we are looking for and what we can expect."
Crisis stabilization units are short-term facilities that offer treatment and assessment for individuals suffering a mental health issue. The Criminal Justice Efficiency and Safety Act (Act 423) passed by the state Legislature in 2017 set aside funding for such units to decrease criminalization of mental illness.
Craighead County was chosen in August to be the site of one of the facilities. A site on Arkansas 141 near Jonesboro's city limits is being considered, but details have yet to be finalized.