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Quarterly, 180th Fighter Wing Security Forces Airmen participate in Crisis Intervention Team Training

180TH FIGHTER WING, Ohio -- Law enforcement officers have a difficult job and no two encounters are the same, especially when responding to calls involving someone with a mental illness or in crisis situations.

Police are often the first to respond to these types of scenes, so it is important that they understand how mental illnesses can alter a person’s behaviors or perceptions, said Alina Fuller, the director of psychological health at the 180th Fighter Wing, Ohio Air National Guard and a presenter for Crisis Intervention Team training.

“It is incumbent on cops to reach the same level as someone with a mental disorder so they can comprehend what is going on, because they are not resisting,” said Tech. Sgt. Carl Stahl, a flight sergeant of the Security Forces Squadron at the 180FW. “They just don’t comprehend what we are telling them to do.”

“When individuals with a mental illness go to jail they do not get the help they need,” said Master Sgt. Phillip Chrysler, a security forces flight chief of the 180FW. “Instead, it is important that law enforcement understand when a person has a mental disability, they need to be taken to a health facility to get care.”

“It results in less misunderstandings, less potential for violence and people getting hurt, and getting the person in distress the help they need versus them ending up in the justice system without the help they need,” Chrysler said.

Quarterly, for the past three years, the 180FW has had two Security Forces Squadron members participate in the training to become CIT Officers.

This training has three basic goals: to improve safety for law enforcement and the individuals with whom they are interacting, to redirect individuals with a mental illness from the judicial system into the proper health care system and to increase awareness of community resources for individuals, who have a mental illness, an addiction or a developmental disability, and their families.

Several Security Forces Airmen from the 180FW have completed the required 40 hours of the CIT training which includes presenters speaking about adolescent and adult mental disorders, role-playing exercises and learning about the resources available in the local community.

“In CIT they teach us about different diagnoses, how to properly respond to them and gives us tools on how to manage them,” said Stahl. “It teaches us how to slow down and absorb the environment of the situation and to pick up cues on certain behaviors.”

CIT training also involves participants visiting hospitals, different parts of the community where they are more likely to interact with members who have mental health issues and listen to speakers share their experiences.

“One of the speakers who came to the training had complete visual and sound hallucinations due to his mental disability,” said Chrysler. “He talked about what he saw and how he felt compared to what everyone else is seeing.”

Another part of the training included scenarios, where a role-player acted as someone with a mental disability, allowing each member to attempt to resolve the situation.

“My scenario was on base,” said Tech. Sgt. Marc Robertson, an electronic security systems technician at the 180FW. “An Airman out in the middle of the parking lot near the dorm just yelling at the top of his lungs at 1:30 a.m. and I just had to go with it. The guy yelling didn’t want to be in the military anymore, was tired of his First Sergeant and he hated life. I had to talk him out of it by figuring out what was wrong and how to fix it.”

The training also teaches law enforcement about the different health facilities and resources in Lucas County they could take individuals to help with their mental health issues.

“They informed the officers of medical health facilities, group homes and behavioral health facilities available to so individuals do not end up in the criminal system without any support or help for their issues,” Chrysler said.

“The number one key to CIT is recognizing it and knowing how these illnesses affect people,” said Stahl. “A lot of times when dealing with someone who has a mental illness, their outward behavior can make it seem like they are under the influence of drugs or alcohol.”

“Once law enforcement recognizes that the person has a mental illness, a CIT trained officer can respond and change the way that person is dealt with,” Robertson said.

“Someone who is under the influence of drugs or alcohol is going to be defiant until they’re subdued and continue to fight because they don’t want to go to jail,” Stahl said. “Someone with a mental disorder may not understand what we are telling them to do.”

Once trained, Airmen are prepared to respond appropriately and effectively if they come into contact with anyone who has a mental illness and can recognize certain signs and symptoms of these illnesses. They can mitigate crises involving people with mental illness while still being able to show understanding in these situations.

More than 24 SFS members from the 180FW have graduated from the training and are a part of the Crisis Intervention Team.

“We need this training,” said Fuller. “Just like an active shooter situation, we don’t know when it’s going to happen. So if we have someone who has a mental health breakdown, we have Airmen who are ready to handle the situation because it could be detrimental to anyone who is involved.”
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