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Watauga & Avery Officers Trained in Crisis Intervention

By Rebecca Gitlen

May 14, 2012. Appalachian Regional Healthcare System and Watauga County Sheriff’s Department recently hosted a Crisis Intervention Training course at Watauga Medical Center.

A total of 22 participants including officers from Avery County Sheriff’s Office, Boone Police Department, Appalachian Regional Healthcare System, Watauga County Sheriff’s Office and Appalachian State University Police Department completed Crisis Intervention Training (CIT) at Watauga Medical Center the week of April 30 thru May 4, 2012. Other participants were telecommunicators from ASU and a Chaplain with Avery County Sheriff’s Office.

CIT is an intensive 40-hour training curriculum that educates officers about a variety of mental illnesses, addictive diseases and developmental disabilities. Officers learn how to better respond to an individual in a mental health crisis and help those individuals receive appropriate care. The objectives of the training were to increase law enforcement’s knowledge about mental illness, to learn about their community resources, to learn how to connect mental health clients to the appropriate services and to avoid incarceration and involuntary commitments when appropriate.

Support Services Manager Sandra Evans of the Appalachian State Police Department said as part of the training, there were five different scenarios where trainees had to talk down people in crisis situations.

“One lady had hedge clippers and her music blaring at 3 in the morning, there was an elderly gentleman with dementia who was lost, and there was a cutter,” she said.  

For another exercise, the trainees had to wear headphones to simulate the voices a mentally ill person might hear. They had to try to carry on a conversation while the voices went from a soft whisper to shouts, telling the trainees, “You’re worthless! You’re no good!”

“I have a much greater respect for individuals with mental disabilities and what they’re going through,” Evans said.

The CIT program is a community based collaborative between consumers, families, the Mental Health Local Management Entity, law enforcement agencies, mental health providers, NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) consumer advocacy organization, the community college and the medical community.

Law enforcement officers are frequently first responders to people in crisis. Therefore, CIT training facilitates ongoing collaboration between law enforcement and the mental health community. CIT is designed to assist law enforcement officers who respond to incidents involving people experiencing a crisis. Police officers receive training on a variety of topics, including an overview of mental health, Geriatrics, Substance Abuse/Co-Occurring Disorders, Special Concerns with Adolescents, Mental Health Commitment Process, Personality Disorders, Developmental Disabilities, Autism, Suicide, Trauma and its aftermath, Homelessness Crisis Intervention and De-escalation, site visits and hands on exercises.

The training received in this course will help our community’s law enforcement officers protect themselves in encounters with consumers suffering from mental illness and the knowledge learned will result in safer encounters for our citizens with mental illness.

CIT Roster for April 30, 2012 – May 4, 2012:

Watauga County Sheriff’s Office

  • Sergeant Todd Lyons
  • Deputy William Gilliam
  • Deputy Gerald Townsend

Boone Police Department

  • Lieutenant Donnie Goodman
  • Senior Patrol Officer Dennis O’Neal
  • Patrol Officer James Long
  • Senior Patrol Officer Tylor Greene
  • Patrol Officer Jason Reid

ASU Police Department

  • Senior Patrol Officer Michael Baker
  • Patrol Officer Dennis Fletcher
  • Support Services Manager Sandra Evans
  • Telecommunications Supervisor Angela Stewart

Avery County Sheriff’s Office

  • K9 Deputy Casey Lee
  • Deputy Timothy Clawson Deputy Jack McCloud
  • Deputy Daniel Jones
  • Deputy Ralph Coffey
  • Chaplain Ron Greene

Wilkes County Sheriff’s Office

  • Deputy Timothy Rhoades
  • Deputy Thomas Cheek

Appalachian Regional Healthcare System Police Department

  • Sergeant Mary Carrero
  • Patrol Officer Dustin Clark

To learn more about Appalachian Regional Healthcare System, visit www.apprhs.org.