All this week at the National Guard Armory, first responders have been participating in Crisis Intervention Training to help them hone their skills by simulating difficult situations that may involve persons suffering from mental illness or substance disorders.

Corporal Ben Slater with the Missoula Police Department described some of the scenarios used during the training.

“Today was our scenario day,” said Slater. “There’s a booking scenario where the officer has brought the suspect to the jail that is still experiencing a mental health crisis. There are welfare check scenarios where officers are dispatched to a residence to check on a suspect who may be in a state of crisis, to full-on use of force situations where officers need to use their additional training to be able to recognize difficult situations.”

Slater said the scenario he finds most interesting is what he called the ‘Train Wreck Scenario’ where everything that can go wrong, does go wrong.

“In that scenario we have a small family unit where it appears that about everybody in the family has their own independent diagnosable mental illness, all of which are in varying states of escalating crisis,” he said. “This family is also having an angry interaction with the neighbors who are generally just upset that there’s a loud disturbance next door. With that many role players involved it creates complexity for responding officers to address all the involved parties to try to deescalate everybody in the scenario and then start working toward resources for folks.”

The CIT Academy is held once a year and is a collaborative effort staffed by volunteer instructors from the Missoula Police Department, the Missoula County Sheriff’s Office, the Western Montana Mental Health Center, Veterans Court, Reaching Home: Missoula’s 10-Year Plan to End Homelessness, the Missoula County Detention Center, Missoula Correctional services, Partnership Health Center, Providence St. Patrick Hospital, the Missoula Food Bank, the Missoula City-County Health Department and other agencies.