Local law enforcement officers receive mental health crisis training

PADUCAH — Law enforcement officers from agencies across west Kentucky are at Four Rivers Behavioral Health in Paducah to learn how to help people who have mental illnesses.

The 40-hour Crisis Intervention Team course started Monday and will run through Friday. Police officers from Paducah, Princeton and Mayfield, and deputies from McCracken, Livingston, and Lyon counties were among those attending.

“We’re here this week, training law enforcement officers from our region on how to deal with people with mental illness,” said Marian Cosgrove, a CIT instructor from the Murray Police Department. Topics of the CIT training include what mental illness looks like, personality disorders, developmental disabilities, suicide prevention and kids in crisis, among many others.

“We have Four Rivers instructors here to teach them about mental illness — what it is, the medications for it, those kind of subjects,” explained Cosgrove. “Then you have law enforcement instructors, such as myself. They’re here to talk about deescalation skills and active listening. And then, we have family members from the consumers themselves, people with mental illness, from the National Alliance (on Mental Illness), talking about how it is to be a family member of somebody that’s in crisis ”

Cosgrove said on Thursday, law enforcement officers taking the CIT course will participate in role-playing scenarios to apply the skills they’ve learned.

The National Institute of Mental Health says nearly one in five adults in the U.S. live with a mental illness, or about 46.6 million people as of 2017. But nearly 60% of adults with a mental illness did not receive mental health services in the previous year, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Cosgrove said the goal of the CIT training is to enable officers to assist more people to the mental health services they need.

“We run into people with mental illness on a daily basis. They’re not always in crisis, but we deal with people in crisis quite frequently. And this training helps the officers handle it in a non-physical way, and the resolutions are much more amicable for the consumer,” said Cosgrove. “We don’t want to criminalize mental illness. But if the situation is not deescalated, that’s what it winds up being. So we’re trying to get them help.”

“A lot of times, people just need a helping hand,” Cosgrove continued. “They’ve not done a criminal activity to wind up going to jail. Yet, they’re very agitated and could be a danger to society, potentially. So, it’s better to deescalate that situation and bring them to Four Rivers.”

Deputy Steve Hendley with the Marshall County Sheriff’s Office has been attending the CIT training since Monday.

“A lot of times, when people are in crisis, they don’t need to go to jail. You know, they need help,” said Hendley. “A lot of times, when they’re crying out, they’re crying out that they need help from us. And that doesn’t always mean taking someone to jail. That means, if nothing else, being a shoulder for somebody to cry on.”

After the training ends on Friday, the Kentucky CIT Program will continue to be in touch with the local law enforcement agencies and mental health professionals, encouraging them to keep talking about mental illnesses, according to a news release from Four Rivers.

The Kentucky CIT Program’s website says more than 3,000 law enforcement officers have been trained on the program since 2001.

“This program has decreased the number of injuries to officers and consumers and increased the number of consumers receiving the treatment they need for their mental illness,” the website says.

If you or someone you know is struggling with a mental illness, visit Four Rivers Behavioral Health’s website to learn about its mental health services. You can also call the crisis line: 1-800-592-3980.

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