Crisis Intervention Training Brings in Dozens of First Responders to Chattanooga

CHATTANOOGA (WDEF) – A week-long training is taking place in Chattanooga for first responders all over the region. When the program ends, these officers will have a unique qualification.

“It gives them tools to be able to interact with and respond appropriately to these situations rather than simply arresting an individual, taking them to jail and not really seeing or helping deal with the underlying problems,” says Alex McVeagh, Hamilton County General Sessions and Drug Recovery Court Judge.

Crisis Intervention Training is taking place in more than 2700 cities across the country. It’s an opportunity for law enforcement, EMS and those struggling with mental illness and addiction to collaborate on ways to make a healthier community. The training has shown to keep people out of jail and in treatment on the road to recovery.

“So the purpose of this school is to really help officers and first responders understand how to deal with people that may be in a very severe mental health crisis or be having a substance abuse crisis,” says Debbie Loudermilk, Director of Outpatient Services for CADAS.

This week’s class includes 27 officers from seven agencies. The officers take courses at facilities like Moccasin Bend and CADAS to learn from experts – and often clients in the treatment programs themselves.

“It’s positive for law enforcement to hear because they see people they may arrest over and over again and it’s important to know that you never know when someone will have that moment of clarity of saying, this is time for change. That A-ha moment that we talk about,” says Loudermilk.

“Individuals with purely mental health or substance abuse issues, though they certainly may need to spend time in custody, I think it’s imperative that law enforcement as well as the judiciary begin to look for alternatives to break the endless cycle,” says Judge McVeagh.

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