Law Enforcement Officers Undergo Crisis Intervention Training

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NORTHWEST ARKANSAS, Ark. (KFTA) — A mental health crisis stabilization unit in Fayetteville is looking to reduce the number of people with a mental illness from entering jail. 

This week officers from around Washington County are training to respond to any situation that might come with the CSU.

The first floor of the Washington County Courthouse Annex will soon be home to a crisis stabilization unit. While construction is underway, so is training for law enforcement officers who encounter those with mental health crisis’.

The role of local law enforcement officers is evolving rapidly.

“Police officers find themselves in the position of a counselor pretty often,” Lt. Derek wright with the Springdale Police Department said.

When you call 911, first responders at the end of the line have to be prepared for anything.

‘It can be anything from a domestic disturbance, to someone that’s having a domestic episode in public, to someone that might be thinking of taking their own life,” Wright said.

35 officers from all over Northwest Arkansas are enrolled in this week-long class.

Wright has been teaching officers crisis intervention team training for five years.

“We teach the theory behind some of the common medications that we may encounter, some of the common medications we may encounter in the field and then we work on some de-escalation techniques, verbal de-escalation, community collaboration.”

Ozark Guidance, a local mental health facility, has been chosen to run the unit. Kristen Mcallister is the director.

“They are not only practicing scenarios but also receiving lectures on mental health and substance abuse in the community,” Mcallister 

The goal is to equip 20% of every police department in the area with these skills.

Wright says community partnerships are key to help people get on the right track.

“A large part of this class is understanding who they can call, who they can reach out to, and making those connections and networking, so when they have an individual in crisis and they are not real sure where to put them,” Wright said.

Mcallister says she hopes the CSU will be open by the spring of 2019.

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