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IACP Challenge to Improve Police Response to Persons with Mental Illness

NORTHAMPTON, Massachusetts (February 28, 2018)- The ­­­­­­­­­­Northampton Police Department is pleased to announce that we have completed a pledge we took to improve our response to those suffering from mental illness in our community. The pledge is part of the One Mind Campaign, an initiative started by the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), a 30,000 member professional association for law enforcement that provides training, technical assistance, and recruitment services. To join the One Mind Campaign, law enforcement agencies must pledge to implement four promising practices in a 12-36 month period to ensure successful future interactions between police officers and persons with mental illness. 

In the law enforcement community, mental illness has become a common focus, with some departments estimating that as many as 20% of calls for service are related to mental health declines. Chief Jody D. Kasper made the decision to join the IACP’s One Mind Campaign because she knows that improved understanding of mental health issues enhances the quality of police services.

In completing the One Mind Pledge, the Northampton Police Department committed to four elements of the challenge:  establish a sustainable partnership with a local mental health organization, develop and implement a model policy to address officers’ interactions with those affected by mental illness, and ensure that all of our officers received some type of mental health awareness training, with at least twenty percent of the department completing the more intensive Crisis Intervention Training. The 40-hour Crisis Intervention curriculum is designed by local agencies to train a team of specialized officers to respond to calls that involve individuals with mental health disorders such as depression or intellectual disability. The curriculum includes education on various de-escalation techniques as well as live role-play scenarios of officers responding to persons who need mental health assistance.

The Northampton Police Department has led the way in best practices regarding police response to people with mental health issues.  Prior to joining the One Mind campaign we already had well-established relationships with local service providers, we had a detailed policy on responding to incidents that involve people with mental illness, and much of our staff was already trained in Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) and Crisis Intervention.  For us, the only missing piece was to ensure that 100% of our full-time police officers completed the MHFA course.  We reached that goal and we continue to train new officers in both MHFA and Crisis Intervention Training.  As of this date, 54% of our officers are trained in CIT.

Other initiatives that our department has pursued in response to the needs of the community include the establishment of a Mental Health Liaison Supervisor and a Mental Health Liaison Officer.  Lt. Craig Kirouac has served as our Mental Health Liaison Supervisor for many years and is tirelessly dedicated to ensuring that our policies are reflective of best practices in the field, ensuring that our staff are well trained in MHFA and CIT, and working with local resources.  Officer Honora Sullivan-Chin was named our department’s Mental Health Liaison Officer in 2017 and she and Lt. Kirouac both collaborate with social service agencies to ensure that individuals in our community have access to the resources that they need.

For more information about the One Mind Campaign, please visit the IACP’s website: http://www.theiacp.org/onemindcampaign/. A list of all agencies who have taken the pledge is also available there.