Law enforcement officers in Natrona County are able to receive training to deal with mental illness and suicide prevention skills from the Crisis Intervention Team, according to Lieutenant John Becker of the Natrona County Sheriff’s Office.
Becker said that a Crisis Intervention Team training session was conducted in March, with the next session scheduled for November.
He explained that a number of local agencies collaborate to provide the training to law enforcement.
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“We have a core team [that includes] the Central Wyoming Counseling Center, Wyoming Behavioral Institute, Casper College, the Wyoming Medical Center, the Casper Police Department and the Natrona County Suicide Prevention Task Force,” Becker explained.
Becker explained that the training is geared toward Sheriff’s and Police Department officers and gives them skills to handle encounters with people who have mental illnesses. The training also gives them skills to communicate with potentially suicidal individuals.
“It helps us out immensely on the streets,” Becker said of the training.
Becker said that he provides some of the training, but partner organizations also have mental health professionals who provide training in their area of expertise.
“I don’t know anything about schizophrenia or bipolar disorders, for example, so we might have someone from CWCC or WBI come in and talk about that,” he said.
Becker said that the training is not mandatory, but added that about 92% of Sheriff’s Department employees directly involved in operations have received the training.
He said that the training is a 40 hour course, and in addition to addressing mental illnesses and suicide prevention, the course also discusses things like depression.
Becker gave some examples of how the training assists law enforcement. He said that they learn to make calls to someone’s family members to gather information about their mental illness, whether they’ve been taking medications they may have been prescribed and other information that might help the officer’s interaction with that individual go smoothly.
Becker also pointed out that officers are given techniques on how to communicate with suicidal individuals to help descalate crises.
He said the training is invaluable and helps fill a gap in what law enforcement officers are trained to deal with.
“We get very little training in mental illness,” Becker said.”[The training] makes it easier on the officers and on the individuals they’re working with.”
People in Natrona County have a number of suicide counseling and prevention resources available to them.