Great Barrington, MA—The Great Barrington Police Department is pleased to announce that they have completed a pledge they took to improve their response to those suffering from mental illness in their community. The pledge is part of an initiative called the One Mind Campaign started by the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), a 30,000 member professional association for law enforcement that provides training, technical assistance, and recruitment services. To join the One Mind Campaign, law enforcement agencies must pledge to implement four promising practices in a 12-36 month period to ensure successful future interactions between police officers and persons with mental illness.
In the law enforcement community, mental illness has become a common focus, with some departments estimating that as many as 20% of their calls for service are related to mental health challenges. Chief William Walsh made the decision to join the International Association of Chiefs of Police’s One Mind Campaign because it would provide more training to officers; a training that was stream-lined uniformly to thousands of officers. Chief Walsh recognizes that mental illness impacts people from all walks of life. “Being able to connect with each person in our community, regardless of any personal challenges they may be facing, is a key responsibility of a modern law enforcement agency. We are committed to fulfilling that obligation by treating individuals suffering from these illnesses fairly, respectfully and in an appropriate and professional manner.”
In completing the One Mind Pledge, the Great Barrington Police Department established a sustainable partnership with a local mental health organization, developed and implemented a model policy to address officers’ interactions with those affected by mental illness, and ensured that all of their officers received Mental Health First Aid training. In addition, close to fifty percent of the department completed the more intensive Crisis Intervention Training, which is well over the 20% required by the pledge. The 40-hour Crisis Intervention curriculum is designed by local agencies to train a team of specialized officers to respond to calls that involve individuals with mental health disorders such as depression or intellectual disability. The curriculum includes education on various de-escalation techniques as well as live role-play scenarios of officers responding to persons who need mental health assistance.
Another initiative that the Great Barrington Police Department has pursued in response to the needs of the community includes a co-responder program which provides access to a clinician from the Brien Center for individuals suffering from mental illness. The clinician is stationed in the department two days a week. The department has entered into an agreement with 4 other towns and the Southern Berkshire District Court in order to share this important resource.
The greatest benefit in adopting all the strategies of the One Mind Campaign pledge has been the ability to deliver services to people that are recognized as being the best practices in mental health.