Text Size:

New training approved for Mass. Police Officers. Training will focus on handling incidents involving people with mental illness.

Police Officer

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

Additional Training Approved for Massachusetts Police

Training will focus on handling incidents involving people with mental illness
 
July 17, 2013
 
Boston, MA – The Massachusetts Municipal Police Training Committee, a division of the State Executive Office of Public Safety and Securityhas approved a dynamic, new curriculum to train all municipal, environmental and University of Massachusetts police officers on strategies for handling incidents involving persons with mental illness.
 
Under this revamped training, lecture will be minimized and trainers will utilize role playing, videos and small group exercises. Training hours will increase 200 percent, from four hours to 12 hours per officer.
 
In anticipation of the Committee’s approval, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Massachusetts and the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health (DMH) prepared a curriculum which will go into effect with the next class of new police recruits in the fall.
 
“Our partnership with NAMI Masss and DMH has greatly facilitated the development of this training, and for that I am very, very grateful,” said Dan Zivkovich, Executive Director of the Municipal Police Training Committee.  “It has be recognized that police officers have had limited options when dealing with a person who is in the midst of a mental health issue, often leading to the arrest of the person because the officer did not have the knowledge and tools to handle the situation differently.  This training should change this dynamic.”
 
According to a 2008 report by the Special Commission on Massachusetts Police Training—a group comprised of legislators and law enforcement officials, “Massachusetts pays substantially less in state funds than other states to train its municipal police officers.” It found Massachusetts spent $187 per officer for its approximately 15,000 municipal police officers. Kentucky, which has roughly the same number of officers, spent $1,186 per officer on training; South Carolina spent $752 per officer for its 14,000 officers.
 
“This is a major step forward in recognizing that police work regularly involves responding to people in the throes of a mental health crisis. This training will give new police officers the tools they need to safely and appropriately manage these difficult situations,” said June S. Binney, Criminal Justice Project Director of NAMI Mass.
 
NAMI Mass is working closely with the Department of Mental Health to encourage more police training, specifically to deal with incidents involving people who have mental illness.
 
“Providing an updated and informed curriculum on mental health issues to new law enforcement recruits is incredibly important as we partner together to help enhance police responses to persons in emotional crisis,” said Debra Pinals, M.D., Assistant Commissioner of Forensic Services for the Department of Mental Health. “Such information can help improve outcomes for all involved. We are grateful to NAMI Mass for their advocacy on these issues and are delighted to partner with them on this important work. We commend the Massachusetts Police Training Council for their willingness to enhance this training for their new officers.”
 
Nearly 60 million Americans experience a mental health disorder every year. One in 17 lives with a serious mental illness, such as schizophrenia, major depression or bipolar disorder. And 1 in 10 children and adolescents in the U.S. suffers from serious emotional and mental disorders that cause significant functional impairment in their day-to-day lives.
 
Improved police training, advocates say, not only increases the safety of the officer responding to the call as well as any innocent bystanders; it also protects the person served by preventing needless arrests and, instead finding appropriate treatment services to meet the needs of the person in crisis.
 
Media Contact:
Matt Ellis
Ellis Strategies, Inc.
matt@ellisstrategies.com  | 617-278-6560
About NAMI:

NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, is the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to building better lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness. NAMI advocates for access to services, treatment, supports and research and is steadfast in its commitment to raising awareness and building a community of hope for all of those in need. From its inception in 1979, NAMI has been dedicated to improving the lives of individuals and families affected by mental illness. Financial contributions allow NAMI to offer an array of programs, initiatives and activities in support of the NAMI mission.