County Executive Bellone Announces Mental Health Awareness Training for Suffolk County Police Officers

Bellone: "The skills that are developed will better assist those dealing with a mental health emergency and enhance public safety."

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Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone.

Photo by: Suffolk County

Suffolk County, NY - January 21, 2019 - Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone today announced 30 Suffolk County Police Officers participated in a specialized week-long training program designed to help officers address the needs of individuals suffering from mental illness. The Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training program, conducted by the Institute for Police, Mental Health & Community Collaboration and paid for by a New York State Office of Mental Health grant, works to improve the way law enforcement and the community respond to people experiencing mental health crises.
“This specialized training program brings together all stakeholders to guarantee that our police officers have the tools necessary to effectively do their job," said Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone. "The skills that are developed will better assist those dealing with a mental health emergency and enhance public safety.”
“The Suffolk County Police Department is committed to continuing to ensure that our officers in the field are well-versed and highly trained in as many scenarios as possible, including those pertaining to mental health and crisis management situations," said Suffolk County Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart. "With the continuing goal of enhancing our community relations platform, this training ensures that our participating officers have the ability to efficiently act and communicate with our residents when needed most."
“Crisis Intervention Training will give our police officers the tools and skill set that will enable them to do their job safely and effectively,” said Dr. James Tomarken, Suffolk County Commissioner of Health Services. “Research shows that CIT is associated with improved officer attitude and knowledge about mental illness.”
The Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training program has become a nationally recognized model for safely and effectively assisting people with mental and substance use disorders. CIT training consists of law enforcement, mental health providers and advocates, and emergency services personnel, who provide officers with the knowledge, skills and support necessary to de-escalate situations and divert individuals suffering from mental illness from the criminal justice system when appropriate.
The program is built on robust partnerships between law enforcement, mental health providers and individuals and families affected by mental illness. The goals of the CIT program is to reduce the number of arrests of individuals with mental illnesses, to help divert these individuals to treatment programs or support services, and to eliminate hostile incidents between police officers and individuals suffering from mental illness.
The week long training program provided to the Suffolk County Police Department covered a variety of topics including communication and de-escalation, indicators of emotional distress, mental illness and recovery, psychiatric, trauma post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), personality and mood disorders. Other topics included substance abuse, suicide assessment and intervention, officer wellness, anxiety issues, developmental disabilities, dementia, veterans, juveniles & transition-age youth, community resources, and a consumer and family interaction panel.
In February, key staff from the Suffolk County Police Department, the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office, the Suffolk County Office of Mental Hygiene and local advocates will participate in a kickoff event sponsored by the New York State Senate CIT training program initiative to further expand the CIT response model.