HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - Law enforcement from around the Pine Belt are participating in a week-long training seminar as a part of a Crisis Intervention Team.
The class will certify officers and other individuals to be members of a Crisis Intervention Team and prepare them to respond to crisis situations that they can encounter daily.
"CIT, or Crisis Intervention team, training is a partnership between mental health advocacy for those with mental illness and law enforcement," said Linda Foley, Pine Belt Regional CIT Coordinator. "The purpose of it is to reduce officer injuries and improve public safety."
Foley said the program offers hands-on and in-class scenarios that get everyone involved in a variety of situations.
"This is a community-based effort," said Foley. "We have a lot of different agencies, Forrest General Hospital Public Safety, Petal PD, HPD, Forrest County Sheriff's Office, Jones County Sheriff's Office, the Drug Court, lots of partners to work together in order to improve the community."
Hattiesburg Police Lt. Latosha Myers-Mitchell was one of many in attendance for the training.
"This training that we are getting today is not only going to help the officers with encountering people that are in mental crisis, getting them the help they need, it's also going to give us some tools that we can use to deescalate situations," Myers-Mitchell said.
Foley said it's also an asset for officers to know the options and avenues of help they can offer to people in a crisis.
"One of the benefits is all the different law enforcement officers learn the different resources that are available in order to help someone that is in crisis," said Foley.
She added that the main focus isn't just on patients with a mental illness, but anyone in a crisis situation that needs help.
"Not just with mental patients, but also with people that we encounter on a daily basis," Myers-Mitchell said. "It teaches us how to be more courteous, be more considerate and those tools we're going to need with the police department to interact with our community."
The program does have one overall main goal: keeping people from falling victim to the system with a mental illness.
"The whole goal is to not put the mentally ill in jail where they get worse and they disrupt the whole population, but rather to get them into treatment," Foley said.
The class will come to an end on Friday with a graduation, and guest speaker, head of the Mississippi Department of Public Safety, Marshall Fisher.