Health

Legislators Hear About Mental Health Crisis Assessment

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August 8, 2013 — TheStatehouseFile.com

INDIANAPOLIS – Rural counties need more money to provide training to police officers who deal with people who have mental illnesses, according to an expert who testified Wednesday before a legislative committee.

Mike Woody, president of Crisis Intervention Team International, told the Commission on Mental Health and Addiction that the cost to send police officers for Mental Health Crisis Intervention Team training is simply too high for many of those counties.

He said costs associated with training officers to deal with people who have mental illnesses include the price of sending an officer to training sessions and paying another officer time and a half to cover the shift of the officer participating in those sessions.

Woody said small law enforcement agencies have difficulty covering the costs, and that’s where, in places such as Ohio, CIT International steps in. The group works with counties all over the country to help make the cost of training as painless as possible.

“Through NAMI Ohio, if you’re a small agency and you can’t afford to send an officer, you’re going to have to pay time and a half to an officer to take his place,” Woody said. “And if you can prove it to us – we’re kind of lax on that – you get $750. That’s working out very well for us.”

The help makes it possible for more counties to send their officers to training. In Ohio, 84 out of 88 counties hold regular training sessions and about 500 out of 1,000 law enforcement agencies send their officers to training sessions.

Woody said in Ohio – and in Indiana – CIT International has state coordinators. He said they have a stronger foothold in other states, like Virginia, where there are CIT coordinators in every county.

“They really embrace us. This is doing it in, what I would call, the correct way. The partnership is everything,” he said. “And it’s not just a partnership to give officers training; it’s a partnership that lasts. And it’s that partnership between law enforcement, mental health, and consumer and advocacy groups that doesn’t go away.”

And he said that’s how CIT International would like to operate in Indiana, but the organization doesn’t have the foothold that it does in Virginia.

Lt. Tony Maze, who works in the Hit Skip Division at the Fort Wayne Police Department, said Mental Health Crisis Intervention Teams are important. He called for the continued implementation of teams such as CIT International.

“The importance of what we were looking at from a law enforcement standpoint is to get the consumer to the most appropriate medical facility in the shortest amount of time,” Maze said. “Partially because we want to make sure we get the consumer out of the area, of whatever is causing the trigger and get them into a safe environment.”

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