March 28, 2023

Officers Train to Fight Mental Health Crisis

Mental Health Crisis
Sgt. Michael Boyer, Correctional Officer 1st Class Michael Labanowski Jr., Correctional Officer Melissa Dodson, and Correctional Officer 1st Class Nick Alioto were among the attendees of Critical Intervention Team training, which focuses on dealing with residents who might be experiencing a mental health crisis.

Deputies with the St. Mary’s County Sheriff’s Office and correctional officers are frequently called to help with emergencies involving residents who are suffering from some kind of mental health crisis — sometimes multiple times in a single day.

To help equip them with effective tools to deal with these crises, deputies have been attending Critical Intervention Team training.

St. Mary’s County Sheriff Tim Cameron said CIT training is the gold standard in teaching de-escalation techniques.

“Police work is not about arresting people; it is about listening to people and solving problems,” he said. “It helps our officers to improve their problem-solving skills through in-person interactions, mentoring by senior officers, and partnerships with mental health providers. This training is an integral part of keeping the community and its residents safe.”

Five members of the sheriff’s office team recently attended CIT training. Correctional Officer 1st Class Nick Alioto, Correctional Officer First Class Michael Labanowski Jr., and Correctional Officer Melissa Dodson along with deputies Sgt. Michael Boyer and Cpl. Anthony Whipkey are the latest of 38 officers to be training in this type of crisis.

The CIT program includes law enforcement, mental health providers, hospital emergency departments, and individuals with mental illness and their families, bringing all of them together to improve emergency response to people in crisis. The program has become a model for what community policing should include.

The purpose of CIT is to serve both civilians and law enforcement personnel by enhancing understanding and helping law enforcement officers perform their jobs safely. The training focuses on verbal de-escalation, which has been proven to diffuse encounters that have the potential to be fatal.

CIT also offers officers the opportunity to interact with people who have experienced mental illness, as well as their family members. The training is based on scenarios, allowing deputies to hone their skills while receiving feedback from their teachers and peers.

Sheriff Cameron expects the training to be especially helpful during the holiday season, when there is traditionally an increase in mental health crises.

“I am appreciative that I was afforded the opportunity to attend this training, and I know the information I have learned will help to make interactions safer for myself, fellow law enforcement officers, the community, individuals, and their families,” Sgt. Boyer said.

In May 2017, the St. Mary’s County Sheriff’s Office will host a CIT training.

For more information about mental health services in Southern Maryland, contact Walden Behavioral Health visit their Leader Member Page.

Walden’s Business Line: 301-997-1300 — 24/7 Hotline: 301-863-6661

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