Members of Missoula law enforcement and emergency services personnel underwent specialized training all week with the final testing on Friday at Mount Jumbo School from the Crisis Intervention Team.

KGVO News was on scene and spoke with CIT Program Manager Theresa Williams, who described the training at the academy.

“Today we've got 34 students that are showing us the skills that they've learned all week long,” said Williams. “So they’re learning how to keep themselves safe in a situation, learning how to be mindful of their body language, their tone of voice, and then how do you actually greet someone and work on those initial de-escalation skills?”

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The training clearly shows how chaotic a domestic call can be for first responders as they attempt to deescalate the situation.

“These are really high level crisis situations,” she said. “All the scenarios involve people with some sort of mental illness. So we have an individual with a diagnosis of schizophrenia. We have a gal who is also struggling with thoughts of suicide, and we have another situation where a gentleman is having some stressors about their job, and they're also suicidal. These are folks with a serious mental illness or just some significant stressors that plainly show they're in a crisis.”

Williams acknowledged that police and firefighters are already trained in high street situations, but in Crisis Intervention Training, different skills must be developed and honed.

“Officers understand that when someone is in a crisis, we must ask how do we speak to them in a manner that's going to deescalate the situation?” she asked. “How are we going to ensure safety of everyone involved? And how are we going to help that person access the support that they need? And so that is why we're here, and we're working with our community partners to not only help our law enforcement and first responders meet people where they're at, identify where they're in crisis and deescalate them safely.”

Williams described the criteria that will decide if each participant has passed the training.

“I think for our volunteers that come here today as role players, their former graduates and community members, the criteria that they're looking for is ‘would I want that law enforcement person to come into my home and deescalate my family member? The answer is yes. Then they're going to pass. In Missoula, we've never had someone not meet those criteria. The CIT Academy attracts a lot of law enforcement, first responders that have the aptitude for this population, and understanding and compassion for this population.

The CIT Academy is held once a year and is a collaborative effort staffed by multi-agency CIT Coordinators from the Missoula Police Department, the Missoula Fire Department, the Missoula County Sheriff’s Office, the Western Montana Mental Health Center, the Missoula County Detention Facility, Partnership Health Center and Providence St. Patrick Hospital.

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