HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) — The Huntsville Police Department (HPD) is now fully staffed with “citizen correspondents” to go with officers on mental health calls.
The Crisis Intervention Team is a community partnership between law enforcement, mental health professionals, consumers, and family member advocates. The program is designed for first responders who handle crisis calls involving mental health conditions.
Officials say all HPD officers are now equipped with this training.
Paul Nordan, a recruiter with Huntsville Police, told News 19 mental health is a national crisis.
“Mental health is obviously an issue and it’s become an issue with law enforcement as well,” Nordan explained. “We want to make sure that our officers are trained in that aspect, but also in the mental health arena.”
HPD was among the first law enforcement agencies to implement the program department-wide.
The mental health professional riding along with officers say their goal is to help those with serious mental health disorders get access to medical treatment rather than placing them in the criminal justice system for illness-related behavior.
“Now we’re fully staffed,” said Lauren Mitchell, a Wellstone mental health correspondent. “We have someone on first, second, and third shift now so currently, it is pretty easy to get one of the co-responders out because we have someone on every shift.”
Since establishing a focus on mental health calls officials say they’ve seen a rise in the need.
“When we first started the program [last June], it was closer, but when the community started to find out that this resource was here then we were getting more and more calls,” Mitchell explained.
More officers who have received the CIT training will graduate from the Huntsville Police Academy as early as next week.