SHERIDAN — Sixteen local law enforcement officers participated in crisis intervention training this week, in partnership with Sheridan County Prevention and local mental and physical health care providers.
Crisis Intervention Training – or CIT – brings together local law enforcement officials, addiction experts and mental health care providers to help law enforcement respond to mental health crises, a said Ann Perkins, Sheridan County Community Prevention Officer.
This week’s CIT — a 40-hour qualified continuing education program for law enforcement officers — marked Sheridan County’s first cycle of CIT instruction, Perkins said. Graduates of the CIT program will receive a pin to wear above their name badge, Perkins explained, so community members can recognize CIT-trained law enforcement officers.
Seven officers from the Sheridan Police Department, eight Sheridan County Sheriff’s Deputies and one police officer from the Sheridan Veterans Health Care System participated in the training.
The SPD representatives were mostly command personnel – including department captains, lieutenants, sergeants and corporals – SPD Captain Tom Ringley explained. Since each SPD patrol team operates with a sergeant and a corporal, Ringley said the training command staff will ensure someone with CIT training is always available to help in a crisis.
“The main focus is to make sure we have people with enhanced training in communication and helping people in mental health crisis,” Ringley said of the training.
Meanwhile, SCSO officers trained at CIT this week included a mix of patrol and detention personnel to ensure the sheriff’s office is ready to help people in mental health crisis on patrol and in the center of Sheridan County detention, Deputy Sheriff Levi Dominguez said. Dominguez was trained as a member of the CIT this week.
Although CIT training is not intended to diagnose conditions or provide mental health care, Ringley said learning about mental health issues, substance use disorders and other related challenges allows officers to put a name to the problems they encountered while on patrol.
The training also connected local law enforcement with mental health and addiction service providers, Perkins said. Representatives from Sheridan VA, Volunteers of America, Inspire Psychological Center, Sheridan Memorial Hospital Dr. Jason Ackerman and other local practitioners participated in the training sessions.
Dominguez said the training reminded him that hospitals, law enforcement and other community organizations cannot provide appropriate assistance to people experiencing mental health crises in a vacuum.
“We’re in the same boat,” Dominguez said.
Perkins said she hopes Sheridan’s CIT training will become an annual tradition, with more officers being trained each year. While Perkins said law enforcement will likely take the lead in future formations, she will help house and coordinate them through Sheridan County Prevention. It also aims to include emergency medical technicians in future training.
Ultimately, Perkins said his goal is to train 75% to 100% of all local law enforcement officers and paramedics in CIT, streamlining the process toward mental health care for people. in crisis.
“If it helps a person, then we do the right thing,” Dominguez said.