Local law enforcement learns how to defuse mental health crises | News, Sports, Jobs

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Jennifer Donovan of DMG Houghton City Police Lt. Nick Roberts spoke Wednesday at the Portage Lake District Library. A new training program for emergency agencies focuses on helping people in mental distress.

A woman paces in front of a supermarket shouting obscenities. A man threatens to commit suicide. The police are called. What will they do?

Using the tools law enforcement officers are learning in new behavioral health crisis training, they will work to de-escalate the situation by speaking softly and simply, treating the person in crisis with respect, moving slowly, exhibiting a sympathetic and understanding demeanor, reassuring the person and directing them to the appropriate resources.

Houghton Police Lt. Nick Roberts described state-funded Behavioral Health Emergency Partnership training during a public program at the Portage Lake District Library on Wednesday night, sponsored by the Mental Health Support Group-Keweenaw Area. This week, two police officers and two social workers received two days of training, preparing them to train others from January.

“I use this training every day,” said Roberts. “It’s one of the best tools in my tool belt.”

The training has a high success rate in all sorts of situations, he added.

Using simple words is important. “If I can’t spell it, I don’t say it” said Roberts. Calm demeanor is also essential. “If I get into a turbulent situation, nothing good will happen,” he explained.

“My job is to defuse the situation” said Roberts. “I want the person to understand, ‘I’m here to help and support you.'”

It only takes one good intervention to see that it actually works, he added. “You really get this training when you use it in a crisis situation and it works. There’s no better feeling in the world.

Partnerships are an essential part of the process. “We partner with all kinds of agencies – hospitals, Copper Country Mental Health, social workers, schools – to get the person in crisis to the resources they need.”

Roberts also spoke about stigma. We know there is a stigma surrounding mental health issues, he said. “There is also stigma involving law enforcement. A lot of people think we don’t get that kind of training. When I graduated from the Police Academy 29 years ago, we had no training in dealing with behavioral health crisis situations. Now we do.



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