The Petoskey News-Review
GAYLORD — After a year in the planning, North Country Community Mental Health hosted an intensive two-day behavioral health partnership training for first responders in Northern Michigan.
A total of 20 law enforcement officers and EMS responders from four counties convened at the Kirtland Gaylord M-TEC on March 15-16.
The behavioral health emergency partnership training was designed to equip first responders with the tools they need to effectively recognize, respond and mitigate a behavioral health emergency.
“Peace officers in Michigan and across the nation are frequently called upon to manage incidents involving people with mental illness in crisis,” said Carole Doherty, North Country Community Mental Health director of crisis services. “Specialized training on the topic of mental health helps to prepare peace officers and other responders to resolve these incidents in a safe and effective manner.
“Officers learn to identify signs and symptoms of mental illnesses, and how to utilize a range of stabilization and de-escalation techniques, and they learn about disposition options, community resources, and legal issues,” Doherty added.
Doherty said the primary goals of behavioral health emergency trainings are “to reduce injuries to first responders and the person experiencing a mental health crisis, and to appropriately redirect the person in crisis from the judicial system into the services and support they need, and reduce future contact with police.”
The behavioral health emergency partnership training consists of three linked training segments: pre-course online training, classroom instruction and scenario based training. The scenarios include situations involving delusions and hallucinations, medical emergencies, and recovery.
A presentation by a person with lived experience with mental illness provided perspective at the end of the training.
Joseph Reid, executive director of Broken People, shared his recovery journey and the need for officers to also take care of themselves.
“I go through most days feeling broken and having thoughts of suicide,” Reid said. “Being patient and caring is one of the most important things I would ask of you. Also, as first responders, you all have very tough jobs.
“I really encourage you all to find ways to take care of yourself. If you don’t take care of you, you can’t take care of me, and I need you.“
Eric Waddell, chief learning officer at the Cardinal Group II which facilitates and conducts the training, said “we appreciate the commitment of North Country Community Mental Health to bring the law enforcement community together in partnership to learn new perspectives and ways of serving people with mental illness, at what is often some of the worst times in their lives.
“We look forward to providing a second training in Northern Michigan this May.”
Funding for the training was provided by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, Mental Health Diversion Council and the Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards.
North Country Community Mental Health provides services to residents of Antrim, Charlevoix, Cheboygan, Emmet, Kalkaska and Otsego counties experiencing a serious mental illness, severe emotional problem, or intellectual/developmental disability, including individuals with co-occurring substance use disorder.