Madison County Sheriff’s Deputies train to help people with mental illnesses

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - Madison County Sheriff's Deputies spend extra hours training to give extra support to neighbors with mental illnesses.

"It changed my attitude on how we look at mental illness," Lt. Donny Shaw said of the change in his opinions of people suffering from mental illnesses.

Lt. Shaw gained new perspective on the way he assists his community through participating in crisis intervention training (CIT) sessions across the country.

"There is a real need for these crisis intervention teams so I bought into it 100% after that," Lt. Shaw said.

Madison County deputies, along with other agencies across North Alabama, spent hours in training this year.

"As soon as we graduated the training, the weekend after, we prevented a suicide," Lt. Shaw remembered about an incident that followed April's training.

Now, deputies distribute resource cards to people who are full of helpful community contacts. It includes agencies like the Salvation Army, Veterans Crisis Line and Wellstone.

"We're not just dropping them off at the hospital and that be the end of it, we're giving them some resources to go to after they receive the treatment at the hospital," Lt. Shaw explained.

Lt. Shaw recognizes that first responders play a vital role in a healthier life for people within their communities.

"It could be the first time that they've had an entry point into the mental health assistance programs," Lt. Shaw explained.

Starting with a call to dispatchers, deputies and detention officers are working to be as prepared as possible to see past an illness to a person in crisis. By directing people with a mental illness to the right resources, Madison County Deputies are keeping those who are ill out of jail. Deputies volunteer to receive the crisis intervention training.