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Bulloch learns about Crisis Program

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    Local law enforcement and mental health leaders convened at Ogeechee Technical College Tuesday morning to learn more about how law enforcement can deal with situations involving those with mental illness.
    Vernon Keenan, director of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, said the GBI, Georgia Chief's Association and Georgia Sheriff's Association have partnered with the National Alliance on Mentally Ill (NAMI) to implement the Crisis Intervention Team in an effort to train officers how to recognize various types of mental illness and to deal a situation.
    "Officers receive training to deal with the mentally ill and those who are in crisis as well de-escalitation skills," he Keenan said.
    Representatives from the Statesboro Police Department, Georgia Southern Police Department and Bulloch County Public Safety were on hand for the meeting.
    Lois Roberts, president of NAMI Statesboro, said the goal of CIT is to train officers to handle those with a mental illness so that they can get help rather than having to incarcerate them.
    "They can treat it like an illness," she said.
    Maj. J.R.  Holloway and Capt. Mike Chappel of the Statesboro Police Department have already been trained in the program and both had high praise for it.
    "There are people who are having problems who don't need to go to jail," Holloway said. "It may be a head problem or something that needs to be treated and putting them in jail is not helping them."
    Holloway said the training helped him because it allowed him to better recognize what he was dealing with and was better prepared to deal with the situation.
    Chappel echoed Holloway's sentiments about the training.
    "In the past when we went on a call and the person was acting out, we automatically assumed they were just being bad and destructive and this class helped me realize they may be acting out because they don't know or recognize they have a problem," he said. "This is a disease just like any other disease."
    The program also is helpful in dealing with those people without mental illness because it teaches officers how to help people calm down. Chappel cited a domestic disturbance call, for example, as a case in which the techniques learned in CIT training can be used in other situations.
    Keenan said more than 1,000 law enforcement officers from 104 agencies in the state have gone through the training. The training consists of 40 hours of post certified training that helps officers identify mental illness and how to handle such situations.
    Typically, those officers then become advocates for the state's mental health system, he said.
    Chappel said the Statesboro Police Department hopes to get 20 percent of its force trained in CIT.
    "Eventually we'd like to see all of them trained in it because it's good skills not just for the mentally ill, but for any situation," he said.
    Ted Wynn, public safety director for Bulloch County, said he'd eventually like to see EMS and other first responders receive the training as they will face the same situations that law enforcement faces from time to time.
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