Scranton police see success with "Crisis Intervention Training"

"Use of Force" drops by 66-percent over last few years

JESSUP, LACKAWANNA COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) - Police officers, corrections workers and 911 dispatchers from Lackawanna County are all getting training this week to better handle emergencies involving mental health issues.

The training has been going on for several years but new statistics show just how much of an impact it is having.

The Northeastern Pennsylvania Crisis Intervention Team was formed after the deadly shooting of a woman with a mental illness in North Scranton eight years ago.

At first, the training was only available for police officers but now it is expanding.

The training room inside the Lackawanna County 911 center was filled Tuesday as first responders learn ways to handle people with mental health issues.

Scranton police chief Carl Graziano says his officers deal with it everyday.

"Every single call is the unknown. It truly is the unknown. The calls that you could take for granted, you can't take for granted. The only thing predictable about policing is it's unpredictable," Chief Graziano said.

From learning what to say to how to act, the information learned in this class could save a life.

"Anything where everybody walks away happy and the job is complete and done and it's a positive outcome is good!" Dunmore police officer Dan Kapacs said.

The training now isn't just for police.

Fourteen Lackawanna County prison workers are also taking part this year.

They realize someone's mental health crisis doesn't end outside of the prison walls.

"I think the prisons are just starting to see the need of this type of training to get these people the help they really need," Sergeant John Trama said.

Crisis Intervention Training started in Lackawanna County shortly after three Scranton police officers shot and killed Brenda Williams in May 2009.

Police say the mentally ill woman was armed with a knife and charged at them.

Over the last six and a-half years, as roughly 45-percent of Scranton's patrol officers have gotten crisis intervention training, statistics show a 66-percent drop in the use of force that is needed when responding to mental health incidents.

"It is not against the law to suffer from a mental disability or a mental illness and that's what we're trying to stress," Ray Hayes, Co-Coordinator of the NEPA CIT Program said.

For the last several years, the Crisis Intervention Training has focused on first responders in Lackawanna County.

It will soon be branching out to help police and first responders in Wayne and Susquehanna Counties as well.

 


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