Law enforcement officers learn how to handle youth crisis situation

17 officers, deputies completed training
Law enforcement officers learn how to handle youth crisis situation
NAMI Rock County

Law enforcement officers from around Rock County are taking steps to make sure officers and deputies are prepared to handle crisis situations that involve children with mental illness.

For the first time, the National Alliance on Mental Illness for Rock County taught a three-day class on crisis intervention training, specifically geared toward youth.

“The purpose of it really is to teach law enforcement how to connect youth with services in their communities when they’re experiencing a mental health crisis,” Lindsay Stevens, NAMI Rock County president, said.

Seventeen officers and deputies from Janesville, Beloit, the town of Beloit, the town of Milton and the Rock County Sheriff’s Office learned techniques to handle crisis situations involving youth.

“Obviously, we want that person on the other end calling for these crisis situations to know that the deputy that’s going to respond is going to be able to deal with these things,” Deputy Luke DuCharme, who attended the training as part of the Rock County Sheriff’s Office, said.

Two of the days consisted of classes in which the officials were given an overview of adolescent mental health and behaviors and heard from someone who experienced a crisis involving law enforcement officers firsthand.

“We want to find people who are willing to come in and talk to us and tell us what their experience has been to maybe help us do our job better also,” DuCharme said.

On the third day, the law enforcement officers participated in role-playing situations to put the skills they had learned to the test.

“It’s very helpful when they are able to respond to these calls in a manner that does de-escalate the situation, avoiding arrests or negative consequences,” Stevens said.

As law enforcement handles more calls involving people with mental illnesses, NAMI Rock County wants to make sure they have the tools to help the person in crisis. During the training, the officials were given a list of resources throughout the county to share with families.

“There’s text lines. There’s 800 numbers,” Stevens said. “So all of these resources are given to the officers to be able to share with the individuals, the youth or their parents or a guardian.”

Stevens said about 13 percent of youth live with a severe mental illness and about 20 percent of those youth do not receive the treatment they need.

“So the point of the CIT-Youth program is really to be proactive in getting the youth the treatment that they need,” Stevens said. “Sometimes untreated mental health conditions can lead to certain behaviors that end up them being involved in the juvenile justice system.”

Stevens said about 70 percent of youth that are involved in the juvenile justice system have at least one mental health condition.

“With the training, especially with the de-escalation techniques and the tools that they give us during the CIT-Youth, I feel confident going to talk to a child and also giving the parents the resources they need to maybe go in the direction they need to try to address the issue that’s on hand,” DuCharme said.

NAMI Rock County said there will be another CIT-Youth class later this year. The hope is to have every school resource officer go through the program and then have as many other officers attend as possible.

The alliance is also holding a Crisis Intervention Partners training in March for community members, correctional officers, pastors and teachers to learn how to handle crisis situations.

“This training not only helps the law enforcement, but it helps our community members. It helps our youth,” Stevens said. “It helps build those relationships and bridge those gaps and build a better understanding, and better relationships are created through that.”