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Centre County First Responders Complete Crisis Intervention Training

by on June 20, 2014 3:50 PM

First responders from Pennsylvania and Virginia earned certification Friday for crisis intervention in mental health related calls.

The group of 20 first responders completed 40 hours of training at the Ferguson Township Municipal Building. It was the eighth graduation class for Centre County.

The Centre County Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) is a partnership between police, EMS, the 911 telecommunications center, Centre County prison, mental health agencies and advocates, and The National Alliance for The Mentally Ill. There are now 166 first responders in Centre County who are trained in CIT.

CIT provides a law enforcement-based model for crisis invention and de-escalation in situations involving those suffering from a mental illness or a life crisis, such as the loss of a loved one or other trauma. The goal is to break down the barrier between law enforcement and the mental health community.

"It is to train officers on mental health issues and crisis de-escalation to guide people in the community away from the criminal justice system and to the mental health system," says Tracy Small, coordinator for the program. "We've seen a growing need for officers and other first responders to help de-escalate situations."

Specifically, Small says the need is connected to Penn State University and that between 20 and 25 percent of CIT calls are university related.

Penn State Police Chief Tyrone Parham says CIT reduces the number of police incidents, lessens the stigma with mental illness, and improves communication between first responders and the mental health community. Parham also says the training helps officers understand why people are in a mental health crisis.

"There are many things that aren't a crime that probably years ago we would have treated as a crime," says Parham.

Agencies participating in this week's training included: Ferguson Township Police Department, Patton Township Police Department, Penn State University Police Department State College Police Department, Centre Life Link EMS, Centre County Probation Department, Centre County Prison and Penn State EMS, and representatives from agencies in Mifflin and Lycoming counties and Virginia.

Training included recognizing and understanding specific signs and symptoms of mental illness; understanding how these effect various segments of the population; understanding the effects and side effects of some medications; and both basic and advanced de-escalation techniques.

The training is funded through a Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency grant.

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Jennifer Miller is a reporter for StateCollege.com. She has worked in journalism since 2005. She's covered news at the local, state and national level with an emphasis on crime and local government.
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