In an effort to protect and serve the Huskie community, members of the NIU Police Department are taking part in a groundbreaking education program that will help them identify and respond to citizens who are experiencing mental health crises or showing signs of substance abuse.
“It is important for all of our first responders to be trained on how to respond to those who are experiencing mental health issues,” said Thomas Phillips, NIU chief of police. “We are seeing a growing trend in incidents that involve mental health issues and we want to be out in front of it when it comes to training.”
On Tuesday, March 15, and Wednesday, March 16, NIU first responders will take part in “Mental Health First Aid for Public Safety,” an evidence-based, national program that focuses on the unique risk factors and warning signs of mental health issues. Over the two days, 30 officers will learn how these disorders impact an individual in crisis and ways to identify a plan of action.
“The training will help us be more understanding of people’s behaviors and their needs when it comes to mental health,” Phillips said. “There are many things that need to be taken into consideration when working with people who have a mental illness.”
The training initiative not only provides public safety professionals with more options when responding to calls, it provides tools to help them deescalate incidents so they can respond appropriately without compromising safety. The eight-hour course, which is a supplement to the current crisis intervention programming, will be held at the Sycamore Police Department.
Phillips said law enforcement officers need to be prepared to deal with the many unique people and situations that they encounter on a daily basis, and this mental health training is simply one more tool to help them do so.
“NIU is such a diverse school – a real melting pot – and NIU’s Police Department wants to reflect that in the way we are trained as well,” Phillips said. “We want to offer every bit of training, every tool available, so whatever our officers encounter in the field, they are able to deal with it appropriately.”
by Jane Donahue