Berkshire Community College (BCC) was the site of the second Crisis Intervention Training (CIT) in Western Massachusetts. The forty hour course (offered each day during the week of March 14) was supported by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI BC), the Berkshire District Attorney's Office, Berkshire Community College, Berkshire County Sheriff's Office, the Department of Mental Health, and the Brien Center. The training was supported in part by grants from the Blue Cross/Blue Shield Foundation and UNICO, as well as local fund-raising efforts.
Twenty-five (25) attendees completed forty hours of instruction in crisis intervention representing north, south, and central Berkshire County. During the course, participants learned about different mental illnesses, co-occurring disorders, and medications and their side effects, from mental health professionals. Mentally ill persons and families of persons with mental illness were brought in to put a face on the illness and those that it affects.
Major Thomas Grady of the Berkshire County Sheriff's Office, Chief Reena Bucknell, Egremont Police Department, Assistant District Attorney Kelly Kemp and Marilyn Moran, President of the Board of NAMI BC coordinated the training, emphasizing officer safety in all encounters. In other words, "CIT does not come into play until the situation is safe."
Instruction included role play to reinforce de-escalation techniques; having participants playing the roles of both law enforcement and persons with mental illnesses. Observers gave feedback to their colleagues on the effect body language and speech had on whether or not a mentally ill person would escalate or de-escalate. The course also brought law enforcement together with local Berkshire County mental health professionals to problem-solve and to plan for future joint efforts. The Brien Center welcomes this collaboration to make a sincere effort to respond to all officers' concerns and requests for services within the constraints of a decreasing budget.
Presentations were given by the Berkshire Detective Unit of the District Attorney's Office, New Britain Connecticut Police Department, the Department of Mental Health, Berkshire County Sheriff's Department, Egremont Police Department, Pittsfield Police Department, Leydon Police Department, Berkshire Medical Center, the Brien Center, AHEC Youth Suicide Prevention Outreach, Soldier On, family and friends of NAMI BC, and the Recovery Center. Guests included Sheriff Thomas Bowler, Representative Paul Mark from the 2nd Berkshire district, First Assistant District Attorney Paul Caccaviello, and Ellen Kennedy and William Mulholland from Berkshire Community College
The course followed the Memphis Model which research has shown to provide success in increasing officer safety. Furthermore, whenever CIT is in place, officer injuries go down and the injuries to persons with mental illness go down drastically.
Participants were from the following departments/agencies:
Adams Police Department
Berkshire County Sheriff's Office
Dalton Police Department
Egremont Police Department
Lenox Police Department
Massachusetts State Police - Cheshire
Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA)
Pittsfield Police Department
Stockbridge Police Department
For more information on Crisis Intervention Team Training, contact NAMI BC at 413-443-1666.