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Training on how to assist in mental health situations helping college community

Stand for the Silent

With changes in mental health resource availability, police departments are now adjusting to assist in mental health crisis’s.

They’ve gone through hours of training to learn how to help with all kinds of situations.

Police say crisis intervention training has not only helped the community, but also the more than 6,000 students who attend Truman State.

Sara Holzmeier has been a police officer for 22-years, and says a lot has changed over that time.

“When I started, when they taught at the police academy was all about learning about federal state, and local laws, about patrol procedures, about defensive tactics, firearms and things like that,” Holzmeier said, who is now the Director of Public Safety at Truman State University. “Very little was about communication and how we deal with people, and certainly not to recognize when someone has a mental illness and then what referrals to make when they have them.”

Police departments also became the first line of defense during mental health crisis’s.

“Probably within the last 5-10 years we’ve seen a lot of decline in the mental health funding in and around federal, state, and local,” Holzmeier said.

Now, almost every officer in Adair County has gone through a 40-hour crisis intervention training, or CIT.

“It’s been awesome, to learn how to recognize a mental illness, to learn with our community partners who are the referrals we need to make, it’s obviously helped our communication skills, trying to verbally deescalate not only those with mental illness, but those that we deal with on a day to day basis,” Holzmeier explained.

CIT has proven invaluable to Truman State Public Safety Officers when responding to mental health situations on campus.

Half of mental illness begin by age 14, and, 75-percent begin by age 24, according to the American Psychiatric Association.

“Kids are out on their own for the first time making decisions and that’s kind of left up to them, those choices, plus, academically all our kids are pretty driven and when they get here, and learn that it’s going to be tougher than high school,” Holzmeier said she’s observed. “We do have some kids that get pretty stressed and our counseling center and our student health organizations do great, and we work with them really well to address the mental health issues here on campus.”

The training also helps officers deal with their own stresses on the job.

“It’s made it easier for law enforcement to open up and given us avenues to deal with our stressors of the law enforcement job,” she said.

The community is beginning to take notice too.

“I’ll give our banquet as an example, this was our first ever CIT banquet, a lot of people when we went to them asked what is CIT is, and when we talked about mental health and making better connections with families, and partners, and helping out the community, we had an overwhelming response,” said Holzmeier. “It was truly amazing to see how the community came out and supported us, supported the idea of CIT.”

In a couple weeks, in our next Stand for the Silent segment, we’ll take you inside the Air Evac helicopter as we speak with the Air Evac team.

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