COOS BAY — This week, officers from local enforcement agencies have been attending crisis intervention training classes at the Coos Health and Wellness building to better prepare them for situations in the field where an individual might be in a personal crisis.
This is the second year Coos Health and Wellness is offering its crisis intervention training to local law enforcement. The week-long training was the result of Coos Health and Wellness Counselor Ross Acker riding along with Capt. Kelley Andrews of the Coos County Sheriff’s Office.
Acker assisted Andrews in the field by talking down individuals in crisis. Andrews saw the value in those skills, and within a couple of years the CIT training was being offered to local police agencies.
This year around 30 officers from the Oregon State Police, Coos Bay Police, North Bend Police, Parole and Probation, and the Coos County Sheriff’s Office attended the CIT training.
Throughout the week officers receive training from local organizations like the Nancy Deveroux Center, Oregon Coast Community Action, Kairos, Bay Area First Step, and of course Coos Health and Wellness.
Aside from this now annual training, these local mental health organizations and law enforcement don’t really have much of a chance to talk about mental health.
“It’s been a good experience. No. 1, you learn more about the different types of mental illnesses that are out there, and it gives us a better idea of how to properly deal with those things and address them out in the field,” Deputy Sean Sanborn with the Coos County Sheriff’s office said.
Mental health has increasingly become an issue that law enforcement has taken a more active role because so many state run mental facilities have closed due to lack of available funding.
Off and on during the training, presentations were given by people who had overcome issues with mental health, and faced struggles like homelessness because their mental illness.
According to Coos Bay Police Department Officer Hugo Hatzel, hearing the perspectives of people who have come into contact with law enforcement because of their mental health was a valuable experience.
As police officers we’re learning ow to deal with how to deal with people in the population that have different mental health illnesses. It’s becoming more of a thing that we’re getting these mental health calls. So it is important to know how to potentially address issues,” Hatzel said.
Many of the people who shared their stories of interactions with police during a lapse in their mental state offered officers similar advice. Folks who had experienced homelessness as a result of their mental health told police it’s important to try and humanize people in that situation.
Simple tips like saying the person’s name in a calming voice and making the individual feel heard were given. Multiple people who had beaten addiction and depression said that when they were living on the streets they felt like feral cats saying that it might be helpful for law enforcement to make them feel like a person.
“A lot of the stuff is just a matter of being empathetic and knowing how to talk with people. I’m coming out learning a few things and that is the goal whenever we go to training. The first thing they said when we entered this class was that they were not looking for officers to throw out all their safety skills, but maybe we can add a couple more tools when you’re out there in the field with these folks,” Hatzel said.
The week’s training culminates on Friday when officers will be placed into scenario based training, where officers will use the skills they’ve learned throughout the week to talk down a staged scenario.