VAIL — The Vail Police Department has announced its participation in the One Mind Campaign to improve its response to those suffering from mental illness in the community.
The One Mind Campaign was initiated by the International Association of Chiefs of Police, a 30,000-member professional association for law enforcement that provides training, technical assistance and recruitment services. To join the One Mind Campaign, law enforcement agencies must pledge to implement four practices in a 12- to 36-month period to ensure successful future interactions between police officers and persons with mental illness.
In the law enforcement community, mental illness has become a common focus, with some departments estimating that as many as 20 percent of their calls for service are related to mental health declines. In Vail, Police Chief Dwight Henninger made the decision to join the campaign because of the increased presence of mental health issues within the community and the lack of mental health resources.
Joining forces locally
In completing the One Mind Pledge, the Vail Police Department established partnerships with local mental health organizations, developed and implemented a model health policy to address officers’ interactions with those affected by mental illness and ensured that all of their officers received some type of mental health awareness training, with at least 20 percent of the department completing a more intensive crisis intervention training.
The 40-hour crisis intervention curriculum is designed by local agencies to train a team of specialized officers to respond to calls that involve individuals with mental health disorders such as depression or intellectual disability. The curriculum includes education on various de-escalation techniques as well as live role-play scenarios of officers responding to persons who need mental health assistance.
Currently, 63 percent of Vail’s peace officers have completed the intensive training and 53 percent of the Vail Communications Center dispatchers have been trained in either crisis intervention or mental health first aid. The goal is to have all members of the department trained and certified.
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In addition to the One Mind pledge, the department has partnered locally with the Hope Center and Eagle County Paramedic Services to develop a co-response model for persons suffering from a mental health crisis. The co-response model ensures that a police officer, community paramedic and mental health clinician respond to mental health crisis calls. The co-responder model increases the likelihood of a positive outcome for the patient.
The department is also partnering with Speak Up Reach Out, a local organization that focuses on bringing awareness to mental health and eliminating the stigma of asking for help.
Henninger said the greatest benefit in adopting strategies of the One Mind Campaign pledge is to give officers additional tools and strategies to make responses to a mental health crisis safer for the officers and the patient.
For more information about the One Mind Campaign, including a list of participating agencies, go to the IACP’s website at http://www.theiacp.org/onemindcampaign/. For more information about the Vail Police Department’s program, visit https://www.vailgov.com/police.