Greene Co., Mo. sheriff adds crisis intervention to deputies job description


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By Jonah Kaplan.

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — (CNN) – Authorities in Springfield, Missouri say mental illnesses play a major role in crimes today.

That’s why they’re joining forces with psychologists for a crisis intervention training program.

They’re also using new technological items to keep the lines of communication open.

“Everyday we’re responding to someone in crisis. The problem is with law enforcement is once we’ve reached someone in crisis, what do we do with that?,” asked Greene County Sheriff Jim Arnott.

Arnott says his deputies have a new addition to their job responsibilities — crisis intervention.

“It could be severe depression or a family member calling in and saying that a loved one is going to commit suicide.  There’s a lot of post-traumatic stress disorder.  There is schizophrenia, diagnosed and undiagnosed,” Arnott said.

And there is no way to handle each situtation.

“A person with schizophrenia versus somebody that’s depressed – how do you deal with those two sets of problems?  And that’s what the officers are being trained on,” the sheriff explained.

The sheriff and Springfield’s police chief met with mental health professionals at the Burrell Center.

Both departments will roll out new pilot programs that involve psychologists.

One of those pilot programs is to arm police officers with a new tool – the iPad, a tablet computer, so that officers out in the field can actually skype in, or beam in telecommunicate with a professional psychologist, using them in the field with professional advice to deal with a mentally ill patient.

Paul Tomlinson is a vice president of research at Burrell.

“You know, the officer can maybe de-escalate them, feel comfortable, get the consult with the mental health worker and  say, ‘You know, they’re OK to go home.  They really don’t pose a risk to themselves or others. Or they may need a hospital or they may need to go to jail,'” he said.

Tomlinson says the old ways don’t work anymore.  Jail isn’t always the answer.

“People who are already stressed out, people who are already at the end of their resources — It can create a crisis in their life.  It can contribute to even further reduction of self efficacy.  Their sense of being able to make it in the world,” he explained.

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