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Law enforcement officers, medical personnel get mental health training

Ryan mcgaughey/Daily Globe Steve Wickelgren, clinical director for the Minnesota Crisis Intervention Team Officer Association, instructs a class of law enforcement officers and medical personnel Thursday morning at Prairie Justice Center in Worthington.

WORTHINGTON -- Regional law enforcement officers and medical personnel are expected to benefit from training they received this week thanks to a grant obtained by Southwestern Mental Health Center.

A four-day, 40-hour program presented by the Minnesota Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) Officer Association began Monday at Prairie Justice Center and wrapped up Thursday. A total of 19 individuals participated, including several members of the Worthington Police Department and Nobles County Sheriff's Office, three nurses at Sanford Worthington Medical Center and a pair of Mountain Lake Police Department officers.

"The Southwest Mental Health Center was approached by the county sheriff's department; they wanted to do something that involved officers and the Sanford ER," said Ree Tschetter, a licensed independent clinical social worker at SMHC.

A Department of Health and Human Services Children's and Adults Crisis Response grant funded the training, added Tamara Hein, SHMC's crisis response coordinator.

Kimberly Carr, training director with the Minnesota CIT Officer Association, explained what she sees as the value of the program to entire communities.

"This is teaching law enforcement how to safely de-escalate situations with people in a mental health crisis," Carr said. "It's teaching them how to recognize signs of mental illness and techniques to use in different situations.

"We have professional actors come in and they spend quite a bit of time doing role-playing so they (participants) can practice the skills," Carr added. Thursday morning's activities include role-playing, as well as class time and a graduation ceremony.

A mental health crisis, according to SMHC, can involve a behavioral, emotional or psychiatric situation that would likely result in greatly reduced levels of functioning in daily living activities, or the need of an individual's placement into a more restrictive setting that could include inpatient hospitalization.

"We're trying to facilitate more of a team approach between law enforcement, the mental health community and the hospital so that they're all working together," Carr said. "When we do our role-playing activities, we also have veteran officers who have done this training before ... to help students with the training and help them through the different scenarios."

This is the third time a mental health training program has been offered to area law enforcement and medical personnel through the Minnesota CIT Officer Association. Hein added that SWMHC is happy to work with program participants, not to mention the general public, to increase awareness of the services it provides.

"We run a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week crisis response team," Hein said. An SWMHC she provided detailed services offered, including: telephone crisis intervention; mobile on-site response to access and stabilize immediate crises; mental health crisis consultation to community providers and law enforcement; assessment of risk of harm to self or others; individual and family mental health crisis intervention; and coordination of out-of-home placements.

SWMHC's crisis response program is available 24/7 at 1-800-642-1525.

Daily Globe Managing Editor Ryan McGaughey may be reached at

376-7320.

Ryan McGaughey
I first joined the Daily Globe in April 2001 as sports editor. I later became the news editor in November 2002, and the managing editor in August 2006. I'm originally from New York State, and am married with two children.
(507) 376-7320
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