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Crisis intervention training grants

Published (2/13/2009)
By Mike Cook
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Sue Hanson’s 34-year-old son has schizophrenia.

“We’ve had police to our home at least eight times. It’s involved three different suburban police departments and two different areas of the Minneapolis Police Department. … The response is always different each and every time depending who you call,” said Hanson, who sits on the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Minnesota Board of Directors.

Sponsored by Rep. Joe Mullery (DFL-Mpls), HF449 would provide $144,000 to fund grants to local police departments to conduct crisis intervention training.

Training would have to be at least 40 hours, including at least eight hours of scenario-based role-playing. Other topics would include an overview of mental illness and the mental health system; an overview of psychiatric conditions, their manifestations and treatment; and visits to psychiatric receiving facilities.

Approved Feb. 5 by the House Public Safety Policy and Oversight Committee, the bill was sent to the House Health Care and Human Services Policy and Oversight Committee. Its companion, SF318, sponsored by Sen. Leo Foley (DFL-Coon Rapids), awaits action by the Senate Public Safety Budget Division.

Steve Wickelgren, president of the Minnesota Crisis Intervention Team Officer’s Association, said the program has been implemented by the Minneapolis Police Department, a “small handful” of metropolitan area agencies are getting officers trained, and Rochester has “a fairly established program.”

“We know there is not parity regarding mental health issues; in law enforcement there is a lot of disparity,” he said. “This training really brings up the expectations for officers.”

According to the association’s Web site, classes cost $500 per attendee in the Twin Cities metropolitan area and $675 outside the metro area.

Rep. Tony Cornish (R-Good Thunder), the Lake Crystal Police Chief, said the monetary request is “a drop in the bucket for what you’d really need,” and many small towns couldn’t afford to let their officers go for a week. He also believes that 99 percent of the cops that handle these types of situations handle them correctly, “whether it’s use of force or deadly force.”

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