Crisis training helps police and the public - WSIL-TV 3 Southern Illinois

Crisis training helps police and the public

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CARBONDALE -- A program aims to prevent people battling mental illnesses from being trapped in the criminal justice system. Carbondale and Cape Girardeau pledged to participate and are getting their teams trained.

The Crisis Intervention Team program aims to make for calmer, more productive interactions between officers and people in distress. They also provide resources for people facing mental illnesses or addiction, instead of placing them behind bars.

The National Alliance of Mental Illness describes Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) as “a model for community policing that brings together law enforcement, mental health providers, hospital emergency departments, and individuals with mental illness and their families to improve responses to people in crisis. CIT programs enhance communication, identify mental health resources for assisting people in crisis, and ensure that officers get the training and support that they need.”

A Carbondale woman, who did not want to appear on camera, likes the idea of police having special training to deal with people suffering from mental illness or addiction.

“They don’t need to be on the streets,” the woman said. "My heart just goes out to them because it’s sad.”

She told News 3 she’s seen people who battle mental illnesses come out of jail or prison and get right back on the streets. 

“Every time they go, they're right back out, homeless,” the woman said. “They basically get on drugs and disrupt things too.”

Sergeant Amber Ronketto, with the Carbondale Police Department, said about half of its staff has CIT training.

“A lot of times people will benefit from medical treatment as opposed to incarceration,” Ronketto said.

In Cape Girardeau, Lt. Rodney Barker said about 70 percent of officers have the training. 

“Once we identify that crisisn then it gets officers to slow down, take their time, and deal with that, basically deescalate the situation,” Barker said. 

Both Carbondale and Cape Girardeau officials said their goal is to reach 100 percent CIT trained officers. 

Officers said the program will help police do their job better, regardless of who they interact with. 

“Everybody has a bad day," Ronketto said. "Everybody has the potential to be in some sort of crisis mode whether they’ve been in a car crash or their house has burned down."

And folks all around, hope to see the program pay off in their community.

“A lot of them can find their way back I believe, but just throwing them back out here is not going to help, not at all,” the Carbondale woman said.

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