Ten local law enforcement officers recently graduated from Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training provided at Richmond Community College to teach them how to safely interact with people experiencing mental health crises.

Graduating from the program on May 5 were Lt. Clyde Smith, Sgt. Cory Jones, Det. Phillip Davis, Brian Ingram and Candy Gunnings from Richmond County Sheriff’s Department; James Hooks, Det. Eric Culbreth and Jan Owens from Rockingham Police Department; and Charles Talley and Anne Griffin from Hamlet Police Department.

Each year about 25,000 people with severe mental illness end up in North Carolina jails. Encounters between these individuals and law enforcement officers can sometimes end tragically. CIT training plays an important role in educating officers to respond appropriately in such situations.

CIT is a rigorous 40-hour curriculum. It involves classroom training, site visits and role playing, among other valuable learning techniques. It trains first responders to understand people who are experiencing mental health, intellectual/developmental disabilities and substance use challenges. They learn skills to de-escalate situations, and how to recognize people in crisis so they can get the help they need. It also teaches tools to encourage people who need treatment to access services.

Speakers for the graduation ceremony were the partnering agencies for the training program: Dr. Dale McInnis, RichmondCC president; Lt. Clyde Smith from the Richmond County Sheriff’s Department; Commissioner Thad Ussery; Victoria Whitt, chief executive officer for Sandhills Center; George Reynolds from the National Alliance on Mental Illness, Moore County chapter; Rockingham Mayor Steve Morris; Sheriff James Clemmons; Rockingham Police Chief Billy Kelly; and Hamlet Police Chief Scott Waters.

* richmondcc.edu

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