Training to help police in crisis situations

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - Two major issues making headlines after the shootings in Newtown and Aurora are gun control, and treating mental illness.

In fact, the senior director of Adult Mental Health Services at the Helen Ross McNabb Center says one in four adults suffers from mental illness.

That's why in Knox County, police are working to remove the social stigma as they learn new ways to handle crisis situations.

On Friday, the first officers to participate in a Knox County-based "Crisis Intervention Team" training program, graduated.

The link between law enforcement and mental health systems has gotten stronger, as 30 Knoxville, Knox County, and UT officers lined up to collect their certificates.

KPD Officer Amy Boyd is among the CIT graduates. She has a loved one with a mental illness, and says this training has given her more insight.

"I would love to help individuals if they do not need to be taken into custody, taken to jail. Obviously we need some place that we can put these individuals," said Off. Boyd.

"The training involves overviews about mental health issues, individuals that have mental issues or substance abuse issues," said Candace Allen, the CIT Coordinator.

Also, how to communicate in crisis situations, and to avoid anything that could set someone off.

UTPD Chief Troy Lane says at his old post in Wyoming, the training showed immediate results.

"We saw a decrease in our use of force reports, we saw a decrease in the amount of involuntary committals that we had to do because the officers were better equipped to deal with people who had mental health issues," said Chief Lane.

"Sometimes there is that stigma, you know, people don't get that help that they need to get. They're afraid people will look at them differently, or perceive they differently," said Allen.

Allen, who teaches the course, says repeatedly locking up the mentally ill won't solve anything. She hopes understanding and training will help get them the treatment they need.

This was the first CIT training graduation in Knox County, and more classes are planned in the future.

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