Over two dozen first responders, recent grads of intensive crisis intervention training, make up a newly formed intervention team.
Emergency responders from federal, state and local agencies graduated on Friday from specialized training that equips them to handle mental health crises in the field.
“For the size of the community we have, the fact that we are even talking about crisis intervention training, it’s progressive,” Jackson Chief of Police Todd Smith told the graduating class. “You have a lot of tools on your belt, and now you have one more. I hope you go out and use it to keep the public safe.”
Deputies from Teton County Sheriff’s Office, officers from Jackson Police Department, Teton County dispatchers, a nurse and a security officer at St. John’s Medical Center, troopers with Wyoming Highway Patrol and Grand Teton National Park rangers completed the 40-hour training, taught by Dr. Dara Rampersad of Crisis Intervention Training International Inc.
The 26-person class was presented with certificates of completion on Friday during a ceremony at St. John’s Medical Center.
“What has impressed me most is the dedication they have shown,” Rampersad said. “They’ve driven through snowstorms an hour and a half away to be here at 8 a.m. They showed passion and a lot of heart.”
Crisis Intervention Training International is a nonprofit that trains law enforcement and medical professionals to deal with people with mental illnesses. One of the nonprofit’s goals is to reduce the stigma of mental illness.
“It’s a public health concern,” Rampersad said. “First responders don’t get to choose what they respond to, and we don’t want to use force when we don’t need to.”
Sheriff Matt Carr said it’s significant to have so many local first responders with crisis intervention skills.
“This means a lot to our community,” he said. “It’s something that will make it safer.”
Jackson Police Department Community Service Officer Adam Galadima said it was impressive to see so many agencies working together to learn more about proper response to mental health issues.
“It was neat to see it in a class that combined all the aspects of de-escalation and how to help people going through a rough time,” Galadima said. “I work with families in crisis and I think this type of training will give me tools I need to work more effectively and diligently with those people.”
The graduates now make up a local crisis intervention team.
Another round of training, held in April 2018, focused on mood disorders, de-escalation, addiction, suicide, domestic violence and tactical considerations.
Students learned how to recognize a mental health crisis, like how behaviors of a schizophrenic can be similar to someone who is high on methamphetamine.
First responders and health professionals learned how to know the differences to determine the best treatment for the patient.
Crisis training has been a goal in Teton County for years, Chief Smith said, and provides responders with the depth to make the best decisions in resolving critical matters.