PITTSBURG — Area agencies have come together to help inform law enforcement officers on ways to identify and assist people who are having mental health issues.


Earlier this week, law enforcement officers from local agencies and across Kansas began a week-long seminar called Crisis Intervention Team training. The event is put on through the local CIT Council with the help of the Kansas Law Enforcement Training Center and the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability services.


Among the agencies involved in the CIT Council is Crawford County Mental Health and the Southeast Kansas Chapter National Alliance on Mental Illness.


"Our goal is to develop better communication and better cooperation between agencies and our partners around the area so that we can better serve people with mental illness and try to keep them out of the legal system and get them to treatment instead," said Greg Peak, Emergency Service Director with CCMH, adding that being part of the council is a good way to see what partnerships and collaborations are available. "It’s not just about training law enforcement, it's about pulling us all together to work as a team."


The officers get information on a wide range of topics including general disorders, personality disorders, stigma as it relates to mental health issues, and also information on Alzheimer’s Disease and other forms of dementia. The training addresses what law enforcement should do when they come into contact with these people, said Heather Buller, the assistant director of the Kansas Law Enforcement Training Center.


CIT is a specialized training event that helps officers to better understand the issues that surround people when they have a mental health crisis in particular, Buller said.


"How might be the best way to respond to them if we have someone in crisis or who are exhibiting signs of dementia or autism or things of that nature," Buller said. "It’s just really providing an educational experience for the officers so they are much more well-rounded in their training and as they deal with those folks in crisis."