A second round of training began Monday aimed at helping Buffalo police officers respond more effectively to people who are grappling with mental health crises.
About 30 officers from two police districts in the city began training with experts from Crisis Services. The program is based on the Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training model. Similar training has been provided to police officers in Cheektowaga, Amherst, the Town and City of Tonawanda and other local agencies. Crisis Services officials said the Buffalo Police Department becomes the largest local law enforcement agency to be trained using the CIT model.
Kristin Adduci, CIT Training Coordinator at Crisis Services, noted that police officers are often the first to respond to 911 calls.
“When they don’t know the information about mental health, they can’t make the best decisions for someone who has a mental illness,” she said. “The training also focuses heavily on de-escalation and reducing the amount of force used with people with mental illness.
Since the start of CIT Training in 2013, the Crisis Services Mobile Outreach Department has formed collaborative relationships with police departments across Erie County. Mental health professionals work with local officers when they face situations that involve people who are experiencing a mental health crisis.
“We can go out there and assess the situation and decide what would be the best option for that person,” said Adduci.
With proper training and resources, experts note that it’s possible in many instances to avoid incarcerating or hospitalizing some individuals.
“When we have all these people in Erie county living with mental illness, it makes sense to use this program as a way to divert those unnecessary hospitalizations,” she said.
In addition to its training programs, Crisis Services offers around-the-clock intervention, assessment, and counseling to people who seek help.