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First responders get new training for cases involving mental illness

Posted at 6:57 PM, Apr 08, 2019
and last updated 2019-04-08 19:29:37-04

WEST CHESTER TOWNSHIP, Ohio — A new training program in Butler County is helping law enforcement and first responders better handle difficult situations.

Police say more and more calls involve a person living with a mental illness. The county now has a training model designed to help keep people out of jail and connect them to treatment instead.

Police and first responders often head into situations not knowing what to expect, says Rhonda Benson, executive director of the Butler County chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).

“They walk into what can be a very volatile situation. They often don’t know what they’re walking into. They get a limited amount of information,” Benson said.

Those situations can be made all the more difficult when the person has a mental illness, which is becoming more and more common on emergency calls.

“They need to be prepared for all sorts of scenarios, including how the family is going to react,” said Benson. “We try to help them understand from the perspective of the family members as well as the person with the illness.”

NAMI just rolled out new crisis intervention team training for first responders in the county. The training helps officers better understand what families and people living with mental illness go through and teaches them how to handle situations safely.

“It can give officers more options of how to handle this and what to do with these folks, rather than always having to take them to jail,” said Benson. “That’s a big part. We’re trying to get them into treatment and get them the help they need.”

The 40-hour training program is specific to Butler County—focusing on programs locally that can support these individuals and their families.

“It also increases their understanding of the resources that are available in the county, which is critical in terms of walking into a situation.”

Sixteen first responders in Butler County went through the first session of training. The next session is in November.