Buffalo Police to start training to respond to people with mental illness

Posted at 10:38 AM, Sep 09, 2016
and last updated 2016-09-09 18:25:47-04

Crisis Services announced it will begin training officers from the Buffalo Police Department for emergencies involving people with mental illnesses.  The BPD is the largest local police district to add this type of training.

The Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training model focuses on teaching officers how to calm persons with mental illness and, rather than arresting the individuals, referring them to mental health care services.

10 officers from the BPD will start the training on September 20th.  Crisis Services already provides CIT training for several other local police forces.

"CIT trained officers are working in collaboration with our mobile outreach department every day, and the results we see are improved care and client satisfaction and a reduction in transports for psychiatric hospitalization at ECMC," said Kristin Adduci, Crisis Services' CIT Training Coordinator.  "CIT officers are dedicated to improving the lives of mentally ill individuals in our community, and reducing the stigma of mental illness."

Adduci explained that officers are taught to notice the signs and symptoms of mental illness on calls.  She says another big part of the training involves deescalation.

"We try to prevent from going hands on," she said.  "We teach our law enforcement officers about how to deescalate.  How to use counseling skills, empathy, communication and how to work with them in order to get a peaceful outcome."

Cheektowaga Police has been participating in the training since 2013.  Lieutenant Brian Gould says its important for officers to take their time approaching these situations.

"The most important thing in a situation like that is you slow down and take your time," he said.  "That's a big part of our training and curriculum.  Slow down.  Take your time.  You don't have to solve everything in the first two minutes."

8 local police agencies currently have a full team of CIT trained officers:  Cheektowaga, Town of Tonawanda, City of Tonawanda, Amherst, Evans, State University Police at UB, Orchard Park and West Seneca.  Those departments have CIT trained officers working 24 hours a day to respond to mental health related calls.

With the BPD on board, the Crisis Services' CIT program has 19 local agencies participating in some way.

Crisis Services provides immediate crisis intervention, assessment, counseling and other services to individuals in Western New York facing any type of crisis.