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Sheriffs team up to bring crisis training to staff members PDF Print E-mail
Friday, June 06, 2014 8:00 PM


DHI Media Editor

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CELINA —Officers sit in a room watching a young woman threatening to hurt herself with a knife because her sister told her she had been abused by a relative. Afterward, two other officers attempt to calm a man in a camouflage jacket who stole papers from a store, convinced the papers told about a terrorist plot against the city water supply. As each scenario played out on the screen in front of them, just down the hall, the actors were performing as a mentally ill person interacting with pairs of deputies and corrections officers who, minutes earlier, had been watching the scenarios unfold on the big screen.

The situations were not real, but the officers were learning how to help ease a situation when a person in crisis comes into contact with a deputy. It’s called Crisis Intervention Training (CIT), and officers from the Van Wert County Sheriff’s Office and the Mercer County Sheriff’s Office participated in the training all this past week at the Mercer County Sheriff’s Office, west of Celina. The training was done in cooperation with Tri-County Mental Health, Foundations and Westwood Behavioral, to help employees recognize and better deal with individuals suffering from mental illness.

“This training is critically important,” stated Mercer County Sheriff Jeff Grey. “We owe it to our citizens who are suffering from mental illness and their families to learn as much as we can to deal with this population professionally and properly.”

The training program itself got plenty of positive reviews from those participating.

“Actually I think, today, the scenario training, has been the most useful” remarked Van Wert County Sheriff’s Deputy Seth Karl. “Instead of just pictures and slide shows being presented to us, we got to see it firsthand. The actors and actresses did great, as did the deputies from both Van Wert and Mercer counties. Instead of just the sheriff just telling us what we should have done, it’s good to have other people’s perspectives. It’s a learning experience for everyone. It’s going to take some getting used to. Luckily we don’t get called to crisis situations too often, but I think through the training, it will help us recognize it.”

According to Van Wert County Sheriff Thomas Riggenbach, five Van Wert deputies from the enforcement division and three officers from the corrections staff were a part of this round of training.

“The training was something that felt was very important to get to all of our staff. Those who are working the road, who invariably are going to get called to come in contact with someone who is in crisis through mental illness. It’s equally as important for the corrections staff to have this training because sometimes there is a criminal offense involved and that person could end up going to jail,” Riggenbach detailed. “As we go through this process, we’re going to have multiple trainings over a period of time so that all of our staff that work the road and work in the jail have the opportunity to have this training.”

The training is hardly a cure-all for any situation. But since deputies often encounter people when a backup unit is not in close proximity, it can help them understand what is going on.

“I think it’s going to benefit the Van Wert County Sheriff’s Office tremendously, being such a rural county, a lot of times there are only two of us working the road in an instance,” Deputy Karl shared. “If we have an incident down in Willshire, hypothetically our backup officer could be in Delphos. I think it will be a great asset. For the most time, even before this training, the deputies have done a very good job de-escalating circumstances. Now, I think we can coordinate a little better, and as they’ve been teaching us all week, our safety is our top priority. Now we can look at other clues while talking to someone. I’m not saying we can diagnose them, but if they are seeing things, we can associate with specific mental illness vs. another.”

Riggenbach summarized, “The focus of the training is to help the employees understand a number of things that may be going on with a person that has a mental illness and is in a crisis. Sometimes things that are going on, they have no control over. They may have been experiencing things over a period of time that have become basically unbearable. The officers have been given tools and things they can try that may de-escalte that person to the point where the situation can be resolved safely for the person who is experiencing the crisis and for the officers who are having to deal with it. It is something that will be a valuable tool for the employees.”


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