Prescott AZ (November 14, 2017) – 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.”
Part of that change took place during the week of October 23rd through 27th at Yavapai College and involved extensive training for Yavapai County patrol and detention officers regarding Crisis Intervention, mental health and substance abuse.
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 and substance abuse disorders, 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), Prescott Police Department, Prescott Valley Police Department, Chino Valley Police Department and the Yavapai Apache Nation Police Department. A total of 31 officers participated.
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.
This training was made possible through the partnership of many stakeholders in crisis intervention, but West Yavapai Guidance Clinic generously contributed several staff members to teach classes of clinical material as well as participate in role-playing exercises.
Other educators included Health Choice Integrated Care, Guidance Center of Flagstaff, Yavapai County Attorney’s Office, Phoenix Police Department, Terros Mobile Crisis Team, Yavapai County Administrator’s Office, Prescott Police Department, Veteran’s Administration, Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office, Coalition for Compassion & Justice, Child & Family Support Services and the Crisis Response Network.
YCSO Chief Deputy David Rhodes and Prescott Police Assistant Chief Amy Bonney were instrumental in developing the training and arranged facilitators based on best practice models instituted around the U.S. This is the second round of training conducted in western Yavapai County and has the additional goal of linking first responders to resources.
CIT is more than just training. It is about developing partnerships, relationships, communication skills, de-escalation skills and understanding mental health issues. Each class was designed to engage the officer/student with dynamic instructors while providing the tools necessary to safely and effectively handle situations where mental illness is a factor in behavior and provide diversion if appropriate.
An overview of the program noted a substantial increase in officer safety when officers use the deescalation 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. By keeping people with mental illness out of jail and getting them into treatment, they are more likely to stay on the road to recovery.