First Responders Receiving Training to Face Growing Mental Health Crisis

COLUMBIA, Mo. – Interactions between first responders and people with mental health issues are increasing across the country. So much so that first responders are receiving special training to recognize the signs of mental illness.

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More than 500 law enforcement and behavioral health professionals from Missouri attended the 4th annual Crisis Intervention Team conference in Columbia. The goal was to train first responders to recognize and de-escalate a situation when a patient or suspect seems to have a mental health issue.

Paton Blough, a mental health advocate, says, “We’re not trying to take away their right to use force. We’re trying to give them another option wherein certain situations they can avoid using force.”

Blough, the keynote speaker, was diagnosed with a bipolar disorder as an adult. He says if it wasn’t for an officer who showed patience with him one night when he didn’t have his medicine he might not be alive.

“Unfortunately, officers get more training on how to use force than how not to use force. I’ve had officers come up to me and say this is amazing stuff.”

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If you would like to hear Paton in person, he will be speaking at the following upcoming conferences:

Thresholds Gala – Chicago – May 10th
NAMI National Convention – New Orleans – June 27
CIT International –Kansas City– August 15-17

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