In December, 17 law enforcement officers from Monroe and 15 from Lake Charles graduated from the first Louisiana Crisis Intervention Team trainings.  This training and education opportunity teaches police, sheriffs and other officers how to deal effectively with situations that involve people with a mental illness or disability.

The training series was developed by the Louisiana Department of Health – Office of Mental Health and the National Alliance on Mental Illness – Louisiana.  The need for the training stemmed from several instances over the past years where officers had to use deadly force when responding to potentially dangerous conflict with an impaired suspect.

The goals of the CIT training is to provide police officers, sheriffs and other first responders with various ways to effectively understand and deal with situations involving interactions with someone who may have a mental illness, mental disability or substance abuse disorder.

According to William Payne, assistant secretary for the LDH Office of Mental Health, the goal is to make unfamiliar situations safer for both the responding officer and the suspect.

“Because it is rare that an officer must respond to a situation involving someone with a disability or mental illness, there is a heightened possibility for a deadly outcome simply because it is an unfamiliar situation that is highly stressful,” Payne explained.  “Our goal is to help officers have a better understanding of the situation, thus enabling them to make better decisions that protect everyone’s safety.”

In addition to the Lake Charles and Monroe CIT trainings, additional sessions are planned for all 12 Northeast Louisiana parishes in the near future.