Law enforcement agencies across the Local 6 area rely on training programs to teach everything from use of force laws to how to interact with the mentally ill, but the lack of state funding has handcuffed the program.
Centerstone's Assistant Director of Crisis Services Verletta Saxon says she sees every day how important police officers are in managing mental health issues.
"Police officers are our first line of defense," said Saxon. "If they can deescalate a situation, speak to someone, talk to someone, and figure out what the resources are for that person, that really helps with them not going any further into the system."
Michael Norrington trains officers from 163 agencies on how to handle themselves in these situations while in the line of duty.
"200 different subjects a year is what we cover," said Norrington.
However, without state funding coming in, training for new mandates is being thrown out.
"I haven't got a clue how the training, especially with the new mandates, will be done," said Norrington.
Without the training the Southern Illinois Criminal Justice Program provides, Norrington says departments may not even be able to provide basic services.
"Nov. 1 we have to suspend all training for which we pay anything," said Norrington. "That will just keep the lights on, if you will, through the end of January. And by February, we'll be out of business."
Norrington says if the doors to the training center close in February, it's highly unlikely they will ever reopen.
Since funding for the Criminal Justice Training Program comes directly from traffic tickets and not the general revenue fund, Norrington hopes it could be freed up by the Illinois General Assembly prior to their January deadline.
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