Police, deputies train in crises involving mental health issues

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COLUMBIA - The National Alliance on Mental Illness estimates that 15 percent of men and 30 percent of women annually booked into U.S. jails have mental health problems, and Missouri law enforcement departments are seeking to decrease those numbers.

Approximately 48 law enforcement officers from throughout the state of Missouri underwent intensive training Friday at the Boone County Sheriff's Department to learn how to better successfully manage a crisis involving individuals with mental health, substance abuse and other issues.

“The goal of police is to use as minimal amount of force as necessary to accomplish our goal, which is to keep people safe,” City of Columbia Police Department Lieutenant Eric Hughes said.

Participants underwent what is know as Crime Intervention Team (CIT) training.

CIT is a 40-hour program focusing on training law enforcement in the basic assessment skills for effectively handling incidents involving subjects in mental health or emotional crisis. CIT training improves the safety of law enforcement, consumers, family members, and citizens within the community, said Boone County Sheriff's Department Sergeant Tracey Cleeton.

“Its give us the tools, how to respond to that. How to provide services and not look into just taking people to jail. There’s so many more options in some of the situations,” he said.

Program sponsors said CIT reduces both stigma and the need for further involvement with the criminal justice system and provides a forum for effective problem solving regarding the interaction between the criminal justice and mental health care system.