Minnetonka police train for mental health crises

MINNETONKA, Minn. (AP) — Business cards that list services for people experiencing a mental health crisis are just one tool police in a Twin Cities suburb are using to de-escalate calls involving mentally ill people.
The cards carried by Minnetonka police list four contact numbers for services that help people experiencing a mental health crisis. Researchers created the cards for a training program earlier this year in hopes it provides an accessible and effective model for de-escalation training at other Minnesota police departments, Minnesota Public Radio reported.
A law took effect last year requiring and funding de-escalation training for every officer in the state. Most other training programs come from solely a law enforcement perspective. But researchers Jillian Peterson and James Densley wanted to apply techniques to Minnetonka that were effective in other professions like teaching and nursing.
“We’ve learned a lot in the last 20 years about mental illness, about police training and about what works in crisis intervention,” Densley said.
Minnetonka is one of many cities nationwide that have seen increased crisis calls. Police are often one of the first calls for someone experiencing a mental health crisis, but officers aren’t equipped to diagnose and treat people.
“Many times when we go into these calls, we’re not able to help them and they’re unwilling to get help themselves it does get frustrating,” said Officer Patrick Eggleston. “Those are usually the ones that we end up taking multiple calls on.”
Peterson and Densley introduced the officers to the social and mental health services they’d found in the community, and created a plan for how to decide which agency to contact. Chief Boerboom said officers appreciated the training connected them with resources that can help resolve situations that would have previously led to frustrating repeat calls.
“While I don’t know that we’re going to be able to close the loop or bring some sort of closure that would be successful to every single call for the officer, we can do a better job of making sure they all feel like what they do every day does, at some point, make a difference,” Boerboom said.
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Information from: Minnesota Public Radio News, http://www.mprnews.org

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