Police officers throughout McHenry County will be able to get free mental health crisis training in November through a grant-funded initiative.
The Cary Police Department and the McHenry County Mental Health Board will host a five-day, 40-hour Crisis Intervention Team training course Nov. 6 to 10 for law enforcement officers serving agencies in the county.
The training is certified by the Illinois Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board and traditionally is offered several times a year through the Northeast Multi-Regional Training facility in North Aurora. Yet, more than 100 law enforcement agencies are vying for spots in those classes, which are capped at 30 to 35 participants, said Cary Police Deputy Chief Scott Naydenoff.
"Every agency shares the frustration that it's difficult to get seats in those other classes," said Naydenoff adding, none of Cary's 26 sworn police officers are trained in crisis intervention.
The demand for mental health training for police has increased in recent years. Police departments are finding it difficult to ensure they have enough personnel trained to respond appropriately to situations involving people experiencing symptoms of mental illness.
"It's critical," Naydenoff said. "Over the past several years we have seen an increase in the number of calls of people experiencing some kind of mental illness. You want to give your personnel some tools to handle that situation as effectively as possible."
In October, 2016, the International Association of Chiefs of Police, in conjunction with the National Council for Behavioral Health launched the "One Mind Campaign," which calls on police agencies to train 100 percent of their personnel in the eight-hour Mental Health First Aid course, and 20 percent of sworn personnel in the 40-hour Crisis Intervention Team response model.
The 40-hour crisis intervention course typically costs between $15,000 and $18,000. The McHenry County Mental Health Board and The McHenry County Community Foundation are splitting the cost of providing this training for free through a $7,500 grant each to the Cary Police Department.
"The class will be capped at 30 students," Naydenoff said.