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How does Michigan’s law enforcement train for a mental health crisis?

How does Michigan’s law enforcement train for a mental health crisis?
Published: May. 20, 2022 at 8:47 PM EDT
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - Police are often the first on the scene when someone with mental health or cognitive issues is in crisis, but that can be bad for everyone involved without the proper training.

Nowadays, local officers from all over Mid-Michigan are better prepared to deal with those situations. Nearly 40 law enforcement officers spent hours Friday training for moments of crisis.

Ingham County Deputy Morris Luckett said his job is about catching bad guys, but there’s more to the job than that. More often than not, it’s about helping the good guys on their bad days.

“We don’t just get in car chases and run and chase people through streets,” Luckett said. “A lot of times, it’s going to people’s homes and helping them out on what seems like the worst day of their life.”

During the training, law enforcement officers rotated through 10 different scenarios that prepare them for the most distressing situations for citizens with mental illness. Actors and social workers were there to make the scenes as real as possible. Many of the actors were law enforcement officers who show up to similar scenes daily.

The scenarios weren’t limited to but included citizens with dementia, schizophrenia and autism.

DeWitt Chief Bruce Ferguson helped out at the training. He said the training helps police respond to calls the best way they can, no matter the situation and no matter who calls.

“For me, it’s important that the officers know how to deal with someone on the spectrum, because my daughter is,” Ferguson said.

There’s another side to the training too. Police hope it builds trust in the community so people aren’t afraid to call 911 when their loved ones with developmental or mental health problems

“We care about what happens to their family member who may be on the spectrum or maybe have schizophrenia or other issues that we’re dealing with here in training,” said Ferguson.

And officers said the training saves their lives too.

Nearly 400 police and corrections officers from Mid-Michigan have completed the training since 2016. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, crisis intervention training improves officer morale, reduces injury and saves money by getting people into mental health treatment as opposed to jail.

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