Improving police response to mental illness

Friday, February 19, 2016 --- 5:15 p.m.

Madison, Wis. --- An increasing number of calls coming into dispatch centers are for people who may be dealing with some sort of mental illness. In the month of January, UW-Madison Police Department responded to 18 cases.

With a growing need in our communities, more officers are looking to be trained in this area.

Over the past few days, 37 officers from 14 departments attended Crisis Intervention Team Training. It's a 40 hour program split up into 50% classroom time and 50% hands-on training.

"Really the goal of this week is to teach officers to slow down and understand that in these situations we tend to escalate when we speed things up. But if we slow it down, the resolution is much better," said Capt. Michael Newton, with UW-Madison Police Dept.

This training is made possible through local partnerships between law enforcement, metal health providers, local National Alliance on Mental Illness, and others in the community.

Each officer that completes the program is a certified Crisis Intervention Training Officer.

Captain Newton said don't ever hesitate to contact police if you feel there is a mental health crisis. You can always ask for a CIT officer who is specially trained for these situations.