Local law enforcement train for mental health crisis situations

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BAY COUNTY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - Mental health is a sensitive subject and finding the right approach to handling it can be even more difficult.

That's why this week, the Bay County Sheriff's Office, along with several other regional agencies, came together for a week long crisis intervention training.

"This course is about giving them the tools to deal with it. Not to become therapists, not to diagnose people but to be able to when they interact with people and say "I think this person has a mental illness and I think they could use treatment, help,'" Clincial Psychologist Dr Joyce Carbonnell said.

The Police Mental Health Collaborative Program is designed to improve the way law enforcement and the community respond to people experiencing a mental health crisis.

"I'm a prime perponent of early intervention and if someone is having a probelm it would be nice if they got attention for it early. And it's not the deputies who will provide the treatment, nor do we want them to diagnose but it helps for them to recognize," Dr. Carbonnell explained.

Officials said the program is successful because it builds strong partnerships between law enforcement, mental health provider agencies, and those families and individuals who are affected by mental illness.

"We want to give them the skills to communicate better. We also want to give them the resoucres in the community because if they don't know where someone can go for help it's hard to get them help. So we want them to basically be able to say "you could go to this place," or have a person to contact and say " we have a person who live son this street who we think you could help," because we're trying to divert them from the jails," Dr. Carbonnell said.

Officials said although it is not a requirement, many agencies are opting in because many times they are the first point of contact in an emergency situation.