A woman walks outside a supermarket, yelling obscenities. A man threatens to commit suicide. He calls the police. What will they do?
Using the tools law enforcement officers are learning in the new behavioral health crisis training, they will work to de-escalate the situation by speaking kindly and simply, treating the person in crisis with respect, moving slowly, exhibiting compassionate and understanding behavior , reassuring people and directing them to the appropriate resources.
Houghton Police Lt. Nick Roberts described the state-funded Behavioral Health Emergency Partnership training at a public program at the Portage Lake District Library Wednesday night, sponsored by the support group of Keweenaw Area Mental Health. This week, two police officers and two social workers received two days of training, preparing them to train others beginning in January.
“I use this workout every day,” Roberts said. “It’s one of the best tools in my tool belt.”
The training has a high success rate in all kinds of situations, he added.
The use of simple words is important. If I can’t spell it, I don’t say it. Roberts said. A calm demeanor is also vital. “If I go into a situation agitated, nothing good is going to happen” He explained.
“My job is to de-escalate the situation,” Roberts said. “I want the person to understand, ‘I’m here to help and support you.'”
It just takes a good intervention to see this really work, he added. “You really get this training when you use it in a crisis situation and it works. There is no better feeling in the world.”
Partnerships are a vital part of the process. “We partner with all kinds of agencies — hospitals, Copper Country mental health, social workers, schools — so that the person in crisis gets the resources they need.”
Roberts also spoke about stigma. We know there is a stigma around mental health issues, she said. “There is also a stigma attached to law enforcement. Many people think that we do not receive this type of training. When I came out of the Police Academy 29 years ago, we had no training in handling behavioral health crisis situations. Now we do.