Law enforcement agencies across Michigan are undergoing mental health crisis and de-escalation training as part of a new grant-funded behavioral health program.
Agencies from four counties in northern Michigan — including the Otsego County Sheriff’s Office, Ingham County Sheriff’s Office and Emmett County Sheriff’s Office — are taking part in the Behavioral Health Emergency Partnership Training program.
Nineteen law enforcement officers and first responders are participating in the training, which focuses on de-escalation and mental health crises.
“We do a high-intensity stress, inoculation, scenario-based training scenarios that are designed to be 70% to 80% cognitive reality, meaning very, very realistic to the types of events that our first responders are likely to respond to, when they’re out in the field,” Chief Learning Officer Eric Waddell told UpNorthLive.
Officers said the scenarios are realistic and simulate actual stressful situations they could potentially encounter on the job.
“It gets the adrenaline [going] and it gets everybody thinking, and we can also go back and debrief those situations and see how we could have improved or what things we did well,” Emmet County Sheriff’s Office Corporal Cole Brady said.
Ingham County Sheriff’s Office Deputy John Welling said the hands-on training is more beneficial than a presentation or slideshow in that it allows for more engagement. In addition, at the end of a scenario, officers have the opportunity to review their performance.
“You don’t know necessarily what you’re coming into besides what dispatch provides you,” Ingham County Deputy David Drury said. “That shock factor of, ‘Oh, my goodness, this is happening now, I need to react immediately,’ and they do a good job of preparing you for that in the real world.”
Otsego County EMS Deputy Chief Gavin Babieracki said the training will provide officers with more strategies to use in mental health crisis situations.
“Often we’re called out to situations like this and this training allows us to incorporate things into our toolbox to better approach these situations,” he said.
The training also encourages officers to exercise empathy for all members of the community and themselves.
“If you can’t love yourself, then you can’t really go out there and love somebody else. So I’m just trying to raise that bar. Like, let’s spread a little bit more,” said Joseph Reid, executive director of Broken People, an international mental health peer support group, and author of Broken Like Me. “I know it seems like a cliché — love — but that’s really the basis of what police work is. It’s loving the community. It’s serving the community, and we can do a lot better when we’re loving the people we’re around.”
The Michigan Commission of Law Enforcement Standards and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services paid for the training program, which costs $12,000. So far, nearly 100 officers in Ingham County and DeWitt Township have been trained through the program.
The grant program’s funds are part of Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s 2022 fiscal budget, which was created with the aim of implementing police reforms — especially professional development and de-escalation training — for state and county law enforcement.