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Mental Health First Aid in the Orland Park Police Department

In March 2016, the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) launched the One Mind Campaign in response to the growing number and frequency of interactions between police and individuals with mental illness and substance use disorder, putting both officers and the community at risk. This campaign seeks to empower officers with training, model policies for response and strong community partnerships. Since its inception, the One Mind Campaign has focused on promoting successful interactions between police officers and those with mental illnesses.

The Orland Park Police Department in Illinois was among the first 52 agencies to sign the One Mind Campaign pledge and the first department to complete it. Today, 100 percent of their sworn officers are trained and certified in Mental Health First Aid; 23 percent are trained and certified in Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training, surpassing the minimum goal of 20 percent; they have developed and effectively implemented a written policy addressing law enforcement response to people affected by mental illness; and have established a relationship with Trinity Services, Inc., a community mental health organization.

And their success is being noticed. The International Association of Chiefs of Police nominated the Orland Park Police Department to join the SAMHSA-sponsored Best Practices Implementation Academy (BPIA), which supports national initiatives to reduce the number of people with mental and substance use disorders in the criminal justice system.

Their nomination reads, “Through the development of strong partnerships with Trinity, Palos Community and Silver Cross Hospitals as well as with the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office, individuals have been diverted away from the criminal justice system and into mental health facilities that provide timely treatment options.”

Orland Park Police statistics support their success. In 2015, of 158 committals to psychiatric hospitals, only 38 were voluntary. In 2016, that number increased to 66 voluntary committals. This year, there have been 50 voluntary committals.

This dramatic increase in voluntary committals means several things. First, more individuals entering mental health facilities are doing so on their own volition. Second, these individuals will be more successful in treatment, simply because they want to receive help. And third, because greater understanding is fostered between police and the community, there have been fewer violent confrontations and thus fewer injuries. This leads to increased safety for all involved and decreased liability for the police department.

Such positive changes are possible because of the rapport Orland Park police officers are developing with individuals who have experienced or may experience a mental health crisis. Through their Mental Health First Aid training, the Orland Park police officers have learned the importance of taking the time to talk to and work with these individuals to get them the support they need.

“Mental Health First Aid gave us an opportunity to see people from another perspective other than the law enforcement perspective,” said Orland Park Police Sergeant Troy Siewert.

The Orland Park Police Department’s goal is to create a sense of teamwork throughout their community. Through their training and experience in the field, they understand the importance of including those involved in the decision of how and when to get the proper treatment. Since implementing this practice, Orland Park police officers have noticed greater feelings of acceptance and lower animosity and hostility toward police.

To date, 180 agencies have accepted the challenge. Be a step ahead when you sign the One Mind Pledge and get trained in Mental Health First Aid.