GULFPORT, Miss. (WLOX) - Law enforcement officers in Harrison County are working to better understand how to help people with mental health issues.
Pine Belt Mental Health is administering the 40-hour training session and grant evaluator Mark Wooten believes an authentic learning experience truly prepares police officers to help someone in crisis.
“We give them 40 hours of mental health training that involves a lot of real-life role playing to help the officers understand what it’s like to deal with individuals who have a mental illness,” said Wooten.
As a member of the Crisis Intervention Team, Wooten helps officers understand how to deescalate a situation when someone is experiencing a mental episode.
“We want to teach them to think about what options they have as CIT trained officers,” said Wooten. “They have some different things that they can do to help individuals that they may come into contact with.”
The Gulfport Police Department said this training is extremely vital and they rely on Gulf Coast Mental Health to continue the program. Helping make that happen is the CIT coordinator for Pine Belt, Linda Foley.
“We have been working with Gulf Coast Mental Health to develop a CIT program at the Gulf Coast,” said Foley. “This is our second time to do training. We’re developing CIT teams throughout Harrison County.”
Gulf Coast Mental Health is facing financial issues and are keeping a close eye on their spending since announcing in July they were out of money. Harrison County leaders believe Gulf Coast Mental Health has about six months of funding available right now and the county plans to support them while exploring other options such as privatizing mental health services.