Federal Grant Will Help Fund Mental Health Training For Oklahoma Law Enforcement

Tuesday, October 19th 2021, 10:52 pm
By: Feliz Romero

A new federal grant is breaking barriers and helping law enforcement understand mental health. The state agency dedicated to mental health support said it has already helped 1,900 law enforcement officers get Crisis Intervention Training (CIT).

The Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse (ODMHSAS) said this five-year grant, provided by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, will only further their efforts across the state.

“This is a really important topic to be talking about and really law enforcement agencies are really receptive to this,” said Jeff Dismukes, the director of communications for the Oklahoma Department Of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services.

“It’s not a crime to be mentally ill. How do we keep the most vulnerable part of our population safe?” said Lt. Cary Bryant, the community outreach coordinator with the Norman Police Department.

The federal government will give ODMHSAS $121,000 every year for 5 years to further CIT.

“It supports our efforts with law enforcement training across the state. It allows us to further our outreach and schedule additional trainings,” said Dismukes.

Over the years, the department has trained 170 agencies. Some police stations have taken it upon themselves to further their efforts.

“About 38% of my commission force are CIT trained, 61 officers, that includes all eight of our school resources officers,” said Bryant.

The weeklong training addresses various mental health issues and solutions.

“We talk about juvenile issues, we talk about co-occurring disorders meaning a mental illness and substance abuse, we talk about suicide, we talk about communication in a crisis,” said Bryant.

Bryant has been a CIT instructor for nine years. He said he sees firsthand how useful the training is.

“They look back at some of those interactions and they go, ‘I could have gone back and handled that different had I known what I know now,’” he said. 

 The department of mental health and substance abuse also offers refresher courses to officers after they finish training.