Training helps law enforcement better handle mental health issues

This week is mental health awareness week, and it is also the time of year officers from Baton Rouge Police Department undergo Crisis Intervention Training, or CIT.

After Hurricane Katrina the city was overwhelmed with new residents, many of them facing mental challenges. Local law enforcement and the Capital Area Human Services District saw a need for specialized training to help officers recognize and better handle mental illness.

"In today's time, officers are dealing with it daily. It's around the clock, all the shifts, every agency you're going to make some sort of contact with a person who is having issues," said BRPD Sgt. Darryl Honore'.

"You see in the news all the time, officers coming into situations that are not part of what their training consisted of," said Capital Area Human Services District Executive Director Dr. Jan Kasofsky.

CIT consists of 40 hours of class, and all local law enforcement agencies are involved.  Instructors go over the most common mental disorders, how to communicate with someone going through a mental crisis and where they can find help.

"You start to understand that there may be an additional issue there outside of maybe that simple call for crisis. You may realize that person may be acting irrationally due to unknown stressors," said Honore'.

"It's not always just bad guys. It's people who have needs that come in contact with the police. The police don't want to bring them in if they haven't broken a law but they also, like all of us, want to help a fellow citizen get to where they can get help," said Kasofsky.

CIT training is done twice a year.

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