Law enforcement officers get a lesson in mental health

Local News

BAY COUNTY, Fla. (WMBB) — Law enforcement officers deal with many different types of people daily and a statewide training program is hoping to improve communication with a specific group of people.

With help from the Florida Sheriff’s Association, deputies with the Bay County Sheriff’s Office and other agencies are taking part in Crisis Intervention Training or CIT.

“What we’re trying to do is to help law enforcement officers help deal with people who have mental illnesses,” said CIT Traning Coordinator, Dr. Joyce Carbonell.

The course is 40-hours of work and will help officers understand things like what it looks like when someone is hallucinating and how to recognize if someone is on the autism spectrum.

“They get a lot of training to do high liability things like shooting and driving but one of the tools they use the most is their mouth so we’re trying to both teach them to recognize when a person is mentally ill and to also understand how to interact with that person,” Carbonell said.

The class is taught by many different instructors, including individuals who have a mental health issue.

“We do role plays and we have a consumer panel. People who have had a mental health problem will come in and describe how it’s been for them, what their interactions have been like,” Carbonell said.

She says while they may not use this training every day, it’s important those in uniform understand what to do when they come into contact with one of these individuals.

“We don’t expect law enforcement officers to solve health problems but what they can do is help these people get to another treatment source, get help and they can give them resources,” Carbonell said.

Officers from Gulf, Washington and Holmes Counties were also in attendance.

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