Sheriff Scott Mascher, “Should the jails be the de facto mental health treatment centers? I don’t think we should be. Are we criminalizing the treatment of mental health? Remember, mental illness isn’t a crime. But if you get charged with a crime because of your mental health, it falls onto a criminal institution to provide treatment. As a result, the Detention Center has become the largest mental health treatment facility in the County. This must change.”
Cottonwood AZ (February 9, 2017) – Part of that change takes place this week at the Spectrum Healthcare facility in Cottonwood and involves extensive training for Yavapai County patrol and detention officers regarding Crisis Intervention and mental health. As stated in the program overview, the crisis intervention team (CIT) model is a collaborative approach which safely and effectively addresses the needs of those with mental illness, links them to appropriate services, and diverts them from the criminal justice system where appropriate. Agencies attending this week long training include the Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office (patrol and detention personnel), Clarkdale Police Department, Camp Verde Marshall’s Office, Cottonwood Police Department and the Arizona Department of Public Safety. A total of 28 officers are participating.
The comprehensive topics are taught by experts from various fields and those certified in mental illness treatment. Some of the classes include Understanding Psychiatric Disorders; Suicide Intervention, Mental Illness- A Family Perspective; First Responder Engagement/De-Escalation; aspects of Court Ordered Evaluation and Treatment; Fire, Medical Responses & Resources & Crisis System Overview; Spectrum and Crisis Response Network; Post Arrest Diversion Program; Homelessness & Resources; Veterans’ Services & Resources; Understanding Developmental Disabilities; Understanding Autism; Understanding Substance Abuse & Resources; Review of Case Law and Legal Issues; Officer Resiliency, Stress Management, Self-Care; and Scenario training based on Real Life events.
But, CIT is more than just training. It is about developing partnerships, relationships, communication skills, de-escalation skills and understanding mental health issues.
YCSO Chief Deputy David Rhodes and Prescott Police Assistant Chief Amy Bonney organized the training and arranged facilitators based on similar programs instituted around the U.S. This training is the first of its kind in Yavapai County and has the additional goal of linking first responders to resources.
Each class is designed to engage the officer/student with dynamic instructors while providing the tools necessary to handle situations where mental illness is a factor in behavior and provide diversion if appropriate.
An overview of the program on Monday noted a substantial increase in officer safety when officers use the de-escalation techniques taught in the program. Additionally, the need for this training became even more evident when it was indicated that in 2015, nearly 40 per cent of Yavapai County jail inmates were diagnosed with some form of mental illness.
It is expected that proper resolution and treatment of those with mental illness will result in less risk of recidivism and enhance public safety.
Citizens can contact the Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office with information or questions at 928-771-3260 or the YCSO website: www.ycsoaz.gov