Deputies undergo Crisis Intervention Team training to better handle mental illness

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BAY COUNTY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - Thursday marked day four of the five-day Crisis Intervention Team training at the Bay County's Sheriff's Office.

Through a state grant, the Florida Sheriff's Association is able to fund CIT training. (WJHG/WECP)

"What CIT training is for law enforcement, is another tool on their belt," said clinical psychologist Dr. Joyce Carbonell. "We're asking law enforcement officers to do something they weren't especially trained to do."

The 40-hour, week-long course helps officers understand what mental illness looks like and how to respond.

"We cover mental illness in general, we cover cognitive disabilities, we spend time on autism and Alzheimers, and drug and alcohol abuse," said Dr. Carbonell.

As the Florida Sheriff's Association's CIT coordinator, Dr. Carbonell believes de-escalation and active listening techniques are essential parts of the curriculum.

"Officers train heavily for using firearms, and for high-speed chases, and they get into defensive tactics. But they don't get a lot of training on using the weapon they use the most, which is their mouth, because they talk more than they do anything else," said Dr. Carbonell.

Through a state grant, the Florida Sheriff's Association funds CIT training. This means paying overtime for small agencies so they can come speak in the classroom about mental health.

"It really is a collaborative kind of class. No one person teaches it," said Dr. Carbonell.

Officers on the job never have a choice in who they interact with, so it's important to be prepared for any situation with any person.

"They may not use [the learned skills] the day after the class, they may not use them for a week. But we hope sometime down the road it will be useful to them," said Dr. Carbonell. "It will be something and I've had people tell me, 'Yes, I didn't do it, and then all of a sudden there was this man and I recognized what was wrong.'"

Besides Bay County, deputies from Gulf, Holmes, and Washington County were also in attendance.

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