HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) — The Huntsville Police Department is working on ways to better handle crisis intervention in mental health situations.
In an interview with News 19, Huntsville Police Deputy Chief Dewayne McCarver said HPD receives more than 1,000 mental health crisis calls a year.
Due to the level of calls, HPD said it has worked since 2017 to improve the training that officers go through. Deputy Chief McCarver said every officer now gets some level of Crisis Intervention Training (CIT).
“The first level is our 16-hour training, we provide that to every officer now as they come through the Huntsville Police Academy,” he said.
McCarver said 190 officers have now gone through the 16-hour training. He said an additional 94 officers have been through the more in-depth 40-hour training.
The Huntsville Police Department has also partnered with WellStone Behavioral Health to establish a co-responder program.
The co-responders are licensed clinicians who have additional training.
“Those masters-level clinicians are with the officers,” he said. “If we get a call that we believe right out of the gate that we believe the nature of that call probably involves somebody in a mental health crisis, we start that car with the mental health responder immediately.”
CEO of WellStone Jeremy Blair said there are currently four co-responders in Huntsville.
“When we partnered with the city last year, they agreed to fund two of these positions,” he said. “And then we were fortunate enough to get a federal grant that added two more.”
The Huntsville Police Citizens Advisory Council (HPCAC) is part of the push for better training methods and better crisis intervention plans.
The HPCAC is hosting a public forum on August 9th that will give the public the chance to hear about the CIT program, and also interact and share their concerns with HPD.
“We want to have this public forum so we can get the word out so people can understand what this journey has been, where we’re going, and where we’re going in the future,” said HPCAC Chair, Jonathan Rossow.
The forum will start at 5:30 p.m. at the House of Hope and Restoration Church. The church is located at 2525 Aspen Avenue NW in Huntsville.
If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health emergency, all three groups want you to reach out and get help.
You can call 988 24/7 and it will connect you with local resources. The new 3-digit number launched in mid-July of 2022.
WellStone is one of the centers in Alabama that answers the calls and helps provide local resources and help to people.