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Police & Responders Being Trained On Mental Health

/ The Upper Cumberland's News Leader
Police & Responders Being Trained On Mental Health

Cookeville Police and First Responders are being trained to improve the outcomes of encounters with people suffering from behavioral health issues.

Sergeant Mike Herrick said during the 40-hour training, community resources like Volunteer Behavioral Health and UCHRA educate officers on the help available. Herrick said many of the people the police force deals with regularly struggle with mental health issues.

“When a first responder encounters anybody, it could be, sometimes, the worst day of their life,” Herrick said. “And someone in a mental health crisis, that could even be compounded. So it’s just being able to de-escalate the situation in a safe manner.”

Herrick said the department is nearing the launch of a new mental health unit called the Cookeville Community Response Program. He said the unit will include a mental health professional and a medical professional from the Cookeville Fire Department to help bridge gaps with people in crisis.

He said de-escalation techniques and active listening skills are among the most helpful tools developed through training. He said each year the department holds training, they hope for 100 percent buy-in from police and first responder personnel.

“All they’re looking for is help,” Herrick said. “And if we do not have training in crisis intervention, it may just be a reoccurring cycle.”

He said for most encounters with people who are not in crisis, first responders expect a quick, straightforward interaction. Herrick said contact with these individuals is often expeditious, and officers need to understand that when dealing with a person in crisis, that will not be the case.

“Dealing with someone in mental health crisis, that’s going to be an extended contact with that person,” Herrick said. “So giving that responder the understanding that they’re going to have to slow down and it’s going to be an incident where you have to take your time and come to a resolution with that person.”


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