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More Butler County first responders are undergoing this new training for their 'difficult runs'

Hamilton Journal News - 4/7/2019

April 07-- Apr. 7--Butler County mental health professionals have started countywide crisis intervention training to help first responers handle situations involving suspects with mental illness..

Last summer the local chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness marshalled a group of police, mental health experts and others in an effort to bring Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training to Butler County. About 10 percent of emergency calls involve a person with a mental illness, officials said.

The training helps first responders learn how to calm a person in crisis down and then, if transporting them somewhere is required for safety reasons, understand where to take them.

Officers in various police agencies have been trained in de-escalation techniques elsewhere, but NAMI Executive Director Rhonda Benson has said it is crucial the training is county-specific.

"Even though these people are trained, they're not trained to our resources," Benson told the Journal-News. "They have the training, they have de-escalation skills and they've probably had the ridealongs with case managers that are part of the program and all that kind of stuff, but they've not actually gotten an education about the resources in our county."

The first 40-hour training session took place recently, and 16 police and firefighters participated from Fairfield, Fairfield Twp., Monroe, West Chester Twp. and the sheriff's office.

Benson was able to secure a grant to cover most of the $10,000 cost for the program. The next session is in November.

Ken Fraser, a firefighter/paramedic from Fairfield, said the program was enlightening, and he will recommend that his department continue getting the training, because they often are first on the scene of an emergency.

The training was all encompassing, Fraser said, dealing with people who are mentally ill but also those with particular needs such as the hearing impaired, the elderly, juveniles and the homeless. The group also learned topics like pharmacology so they can understand the effects of medications people might be taking, substance abuse, suicide prevention and what to watch for and resources for veterans.

"It was the whole gamut of just difficult runs, the unusual runs," Fraser said.

Fairfield Police Officer Matt Kellum is also a training officer for the department. He said knowing the right words to use to calm the person and appropriate places to take them, especially in the middle of the night, are crucial.

"That's what's important for the officers to go through this, is to realize there are options out there, knowing what they are and knowing which ones are appropriate for the situation you have at hand and also being able to follow up with the families," Kellum said.

The families of the people dialing 911 about a loved one in crisis can request a CIT-trained officer.

"When you tell a family member you have been through a Crisis Intervention Team training, the families that know what that means, you see a relief on their face, because they know you have been through some advanced training to be able to help them in their time of need," Kellum said.

The judges from the various specialty docket courts in the county were part of the training. Area III Court Judge Dan Haughey, who recently received certification for his mental health treatment alternative court docket, attended the judge's session. He said the judges outlined for the trainees what the various courts provide and processes and procedures.

"I think the training is essential, because the earlier that someone is identified as having a mental health issue or concern, the quicker we can start to put the pieces together to get that person evaluated and find the appropriate services," Haughey said. "The earlier the better."


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