HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WDAM) - It’s a community-based program bridging the gap between mental health advocacy and law enforcement. It’s called the Crisis Intervention Team.
A local CIT coordinator from Pine Belt Mental Healthcare Resources is being recognized for her hard work and dedication to the mission.
“I love seeing the results. I love to help the people that are the least of these. I hate to see people living with mental illness in jail just for having their disease,” said Pine Belt Mental Healthcare Resources CIT Coordinator Linda Foley.
Foley is dedicated to making a change. Within the past three years she has played a role in training about 250 law enforcement officers who are now CIT certified.
“Law enforcement officers participate in a 40-hour training course where they learn to recognize the signs and symptoms of mental illness. They learn how to safely deescalate individuals that are in a psychiatric crisis on the scene," said Foley. "There are times they do need treatment immediately, and we co-respond with our mobile crisis team and/or help get them into a psychiatric facility.”
Petal Police Department Capt. Craig Locke is one of those officers who went through the program understanding the critical need. He now holds the title of Petal PD’s CIT Coordinator.
“It gives us another opportunity to actually get people the help they need instead of placing them in the criminal justice system,” Locke said.
Making a positive impact in community policing, Locke said one of the real heroes behind the scenes is Foley.
“She’s an advocate for the program. She’s one of the ones when we were all skeptical about it, she really pushed us over the edge. She’s been a positive influence on the program. She’s made everything come together and work the best it could," Locke said. "This year, I was proud to be one of the attendees in Seattle, Wash., where Ms. Linda was nominated and received the CIT Coordinator of the Year award for CIT International.”
Foley received the International Crisis Intervention Team Mike Woody/Michele Saunders Award for Coordinator of the Year.
“It was such an honor,” Foley said.
“To see her being recognized nationally, this is a program all over the United States, and this is an extreme honor. I am so proud of her,” said Locke.
“One of my heroes, Sam Cochran and Dr. Randy Dupont, who both originated the program back in 1988, were both there. It was overwhelming. It’s a culmination of my career. I’m near retirement, and it was just icing on the cake,” said Foley.