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Crisis intervention program unveiled

The public introduction of a new Crisis Intervention Officer program is scheduled on July 30 from 3-4:30 p.m. in the Poulsbo City Hall Council Chambers.

The event will showcase what law enforcement officials hope will be a significant improvement in how police respond to incidents involving those with mental health problems, such as drug addiction and mental illness.

Against the backdrop of ongoing violent encounters nationwide involving the mentally ill, as well as the county’s decision to fund and develop programs to address mental health problems through a 1/10 of 1 cent sales tax increase, the program is an approach to help law enforcement handle calls involving crisis situations. It will provide greater safety for the officer, the person involved, and the public.

CIOs will be specially trained law enforcement officers from each law enforcement agency in Kitsap County, who will work with each other to respond to calls and incidents that involve mental illness. They will also serve as liaisons with their communities about mental health issues.

The County Commission recently awarded $117,000 to county law enforcement agencies to provide training in these issues. CIOs and other officers will be trained in basic skills for dealing with those suffering from mental illness. The grant and training will be coordinated by the Bremerton Police Department.

The training will also include skills enhancement for staff at CenCom, the area’s emergency dispatch center.

The CIO Program is one of several approaches developed by police departments in Kitsap County’s and the Sheriff’s Office to increase effectiveness and safety. Additional proposals include a crisis triage center, which is still under consideration for 2015 implementation by the County Commission using the sales tax funds.

The July 30 event will feature speakers who will explain the new program. CIOs and law enforcement leaders will provide information about why this program is both necessary and significant, and how community members can get involved in the initiative.

The development of the CIO Program is a cooperative effort of community groups and law enforcement, including Islanders for Collaborative Policing (ICP), the League of Women Voters, the local chapter of the National Alliance for the Mentally ill (NAMI), Kitsap Mental Health (KMH), Poulsbo Police, Bremerton Police, Bainbridge Island Police, Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office, and Port Orchard Police.

The event is being co-sponsored by ICP, NAMI-Kitsap, and the Kitsap County Vulnerable Adult Task Force.

For more information about the CIO program, contact Bremerton Police Chief Steve Strachan at steven.strachan@ci.bremerton.wa.us or Poulsbo Police Chief Al Townsend at atownsend@cityofpoulsbo.com.

For more information about the event, contact ICP board member Kim Hendrickson at contactcollpol@gmail.com.

 

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