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Plattsburgh police hope to use Vermont-based mental health crisis response training

Published: Nov. 25, 2020 at 6:19 PM EST|Updated: Nov. 26, 2020 at 7:40 AM EST
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PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. (WCAX) - A Vermont program coordinating first responders and mental health counselors when responding to mental health calls is starting to spread nationally, including Plattsburgh, where the police hope to take advantage of the lessons.

In moments of crisis, it’s the dispatchers, EMTs, firefighters, and police that are on the frontlines. They don’t always work hand-in-hand with mental health counselors, but a Vermont-based training program hopes to change that. “Really fosters building those relationships among those first responders in responding to a mental health crisis and focuses on collaborative response,” said Kristin Chandler with Team Two Vermont, a scenario-based mental health training for first responders.

It’s designed like a crash course version of the 40-hour “Crisis Intervention Training,” what Chandler calls the “gold standard” of police training in mental health.

She says Team Two puts a spin on CIT to fit rural needs. “Throughout the day we focus on three things -- the safety aspect, the clinical aspect, and the legal aspect,” Chandler said.

Since its start in 2013, the program has touched just about every department in Vermont and has grown into a nationwide training. In the training, participants watch body cam video of departments from all over to get a sense of what it’s like to walk in each other’s shoes. “They were chosen specifically to make sure that people really understood limitations and the language of their counterparts,” Chandler said.

Plattsburgh Police Chief Levi Ritter says a program like this would be good in his city. “It took some out-of-the-box thinking. It took some funding, it took some resources, but I think the proof is there for it being a valuable community resource,” he said.

But the city has no plans to implement it at this time. Chief Ritter says in the future he hopes to talk with the council and Mayor-elect Chris Rosenquest to see their thoughts on the program and any resources that can be offered to make it a reality. “Organizationally, we need some structure to be able to accommodate something like this,” Ritter said.

The start of a better way to protect and serve the community and the people who call it home. “A lot more to the hub and spoke, they call it. But I think this is a very good starting point for the City of Plattsburgh.”

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