Chicago Upgrades Police Training on Mental Illness

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Chicago is bolstering its response to emergencies involving people suffering from mental illness to address glaring deficiencies laid bare by the Justice Department, reports the Chicago Sun-Times. An eight-hour course developed in partnership with EMS System Hospitals will allow paramedics, 911 personnel, police officers, and mental health providers to engage in live, “scenario-based” simulations. The morning class covers psychiatric and behavioral emergencies, signs and symptoms. and recommended treatment. The afternoon covers “simulation scenarios,” with talking mannequins and actors posing as patients.

A simulation yesterday featured a woman in a bar who was disoriented after failing to take her medication. Alexa James of the National Alliance on Mental Illness Chicago said the eight-hour course is different from the 40-hour Crisis Intervention Training (CIT) certification because it’s “inter-agency” and “scenario-based.” “If an officer responds to a scene and so does the fire department, do people know who is supposed to take this person and what they’re supposed to do? This is learning what everybody is supposed to do,” James said. Last year, the police shootings of Quintonio LeGrier and Bettie Jones prompted Mayor Rahm Emanuel to announce a 50 percent increase in crisis intervention training for police officers and at least one CIT officer in every district on every watch.

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