Officers and deputies in Southwest Florida are getting crisis intervention training in hopes that they can better de-escalate fraught situations.
“Call to call a majority of them are people who are experiencing some sort of crisis,” said Cory Singleton, an officer with the Fort Myers Police Department.
Singleton is one of 50 others going through crisis intervention training provided by the National Alliance on Mental Illness, also known as NAMI.
The goal is to get more officers and deputies this kind of training. If an officer comes across someone with mental illness or having an episode — then they can call one of these CIT- certified officers to help defuse the situation.
And if someone calling 911 wants help during a crisis, they can ask dispatchers to send a CIT-certified officer.
“It focuses on officer safety and also safety of the individuals that are having some type of mental health crisis,” said Vacharee Howard, CEO of NAMI in Lee, Charlotte and Hendry counties.
Typically, a senior officer in the department leads this kind of specialized training. But this week, officers and deputies are getting hands-on experience from licensed mental health experts.
“Crisis intervention training is giving us another tool to put in our toolbelt,” said Lt. Grace Towler with the Sanibel Police Department.
It’s important for officers to know whether they are responding to a call involving someone doing something criminal or suffering from a mental health issue.
“This gives us a little more insight on that like what they’re experiencing why they react the way they do and how they respond and how we can respond appropriately to that and basically help mitigate their stressors,” Singleton said.
For a list of resources offered by NAMI, visit here.