WJTV News Channel 12 - Greenville police cap off crisis intervention training, prep to

Greenville police cap off crisis intervention training, prep to handle mental illness

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GREENVILLE, N.C. - Greenville police officers capped off a 40-hour training Friday to help better understand mental illness and the people who live with it.
Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training is a program that teaches law enforcement officers about mental health, substance abuse and developmental disabilities. On Friday the class ended with pretend scenarios as mental health professionals assessed officer response.

John Scalise, a CIT coordinator with East Carolina Behavioral Health, led many of the exercises. 

"I think there are a lot of folks who still believe that someone with a mental illness is more dangerous than an individual without, and that's just not the case,” Scalise says.

He wants to dispel that notion with education. The program’s 40-hour certification will help officers respond appropriately to crisis situations involving people living with mental illness.

 “You never know what's going to go on,” says Alvaro Elias, a 9-year-veteran of the Greenville Police Department. “You never know what that person may act differently in a split second. So you have to prepare yourself for any type of scenario."

Scalise says the key is educating officers about the mental health resources within the community so the hospital or jail are not their only options for someone with a mental illness.

Instead, Lt. Carlton Williams says it's best to get them the help they need.

"They need to go to get medical assistance, whether it be mental health providers, medication, whether they go and talk to someone, so we try to divert those people from jail," he says.

It’s training officers believe will serve them well on the job.
"With this class, I feel like I have more resources,” Elias says. “To be a better officer, you have to have that, the more resources, the better."

The program is a priority of the Greenville Police Department. So far, more than 100 officers, as well as detectives, front desk staff and telecommunicators have completed the training.

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