Great Barrington Police Department joins One Mind campaign
Great Barrington — Chief William Walsh has announced that he, on behalf of the Great Barrington Police Department, pledged to join the One Mind campaign, an effort to improve law enforcement interactions with those affected by mental illness.
On Sept. 20, 182 Massachusetts police chiefs undertook the voluntary pledge to join the campaign, which is sponsored by the International Association of Chiefs of Police.
“Mental illness impacts people from all walks of life,” Chief Walsh said. “Being able to connect with each person in our community, regardless of any personal challenges they may be facing, is a key responsibility of a modern law enforcement agency. We are committed to fulfilling that obligation by treating individuals suffering from these illnesses fairly, respectfully and in a appropriate and professional manner.”
The One Mind campaign seeks to ensure successful interactions between police officers and persons affected by mental illness. To join the campaign, law enforcement agencies must commit to implementing four promising practices over a 12-36 month time frame.
The practices are:
- Establish a clearly defined and sustainable partnership with one or more community mental health organizations
- Develop and implement a model policy addressing police response to persons affected by mental illness
- Train and certify 100 percent of the agency’s sworn officers as well as selected non-sworn staff in Mental Health First Aid for Public Safety.
- Provide Crisis Intervention Team training to a minimum of 20 percent of the agency’s sworn officers and selected non-sworn staff.
The GBPD is already well on its way to completing these commitments and, in the coming months, it will announce more partnerships, policies and training undertaken by the department and its officers.
Creation of a CIT is an especially important milestone for police departments, as it includes more than 40 hours of training on vital skills including verbal de-escalation; scenario-based training; and personal interactions during training with mental health professionals, people who have experienced and recovered from mental health crises, and family members who have likewise been affected by mental illness.
According to the World Health Organization, one in four people will be affected by a mental or neurological disorder at some point in their lives. The National Institute of Mental Health reports that nearly half of Americans suffering from a disorder go untreated. Such disorders, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, are the third most common cause of hospitalization in the U.S. for both youth and adults aged 18–44.