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DECEMBER 09, 2015

Grant Funds Officer Crisis Training


WINDSOR —The Windsor Police Department has been awarded a $200,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice to train all officers and dispatchers in crisis intervention, specifically during a mental health emergency.

The Mental Health Collaboration grant was awarded to eight police departments around the country

Windsor began training officers in crisis intervention, which is used when dealing with emotionally disturbed or suicidal people, in 2005.

In 2008, the department began a partnership with Community Health Resources, a nonprofit mental health and social services agency, to enhance its ability to respond to those types of calls. But the number of calls for emotionally disturbed people, suicides and suicide attempts has continued to grow.

According to police, the department responded to 270 such calls in 2014, an 8 percent increase over 2013.

The number also increased more than 3 percent from 2012 to 2013, and this year the department has responded to 47 suicide or attempted suicide calls, compared to 26 in 2014.

Windsor police Sgt. Christopher McKee said the enhanced crisis intervention training teaches officers to respond to those calls in a different way than they were taught in the academy.

“The typical strategies, such as take control, don’t always work,” McKee said.

The 40-hour course includes a brief immersion into mental illness — officers are fitted with headphones that continually play voices to give them an idea of what mental illness might be like.

Windsor police officer Sue Bowman, one of the department’s lead crisis intervention team officers, said her training has given her an idea of what an emotionally disturbed person needs from responding officers.

“I’ve listened. Sometimes it’s a matter of just letting someone blow off steam,” said Bowman.

In some circumstances, she added, police are unable to get through to people in emotional distress and that is when taking charge becomes the protocol, especially if there’s risk, such as the presence of weapons or an incident involving a violent person.

McKee said another important aspect of the two-year grant is the enhancement of services that will be provided by Community Health Resources, which collaborated with the department to get the funding.

A clinician will be embedded with the department for 24 hours a week, allowing the department to make follow-up visits and help residents get the mental health services they need.

Stan Schapiro, CHR’s senior vice president of adult services, said his agency hopes to be able to help defuse situations, provide help to people with mental health issues and their families, and share what they learn with other police departments.

Schapiro said the organization also hopes to give officers a better understanding of mental illness, while the officers, it is hoped, will provide mental health workers and the public with a better understanding of what police deal with every day.

The agency is also planning to add a community education component to the program.

McKee said the department hopes to cut down on the number of calls for services for emotionally disturbed people and suicide attempts, “and in general to improve the quality of life for all Windsor residents.”

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