SCRANTON, LACKAWANNA COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — Law enforcement and other first responders across the area often come across someone in a crisis also suffering from mental illness.

This is an increasingly important issue for our community. A person having a crisis may already have a diagnosis of mental illness or experience symptoms for the first time.

“Anybody could be in a crisis. If I am reaching out to 911 whether or not I have a mental illness I am in crisis,” stated Marie Onukiavage, executive director at NAMI Northeast Region.

When you dial 911 you are asking first responders to step in to help. Whether a child or adult the situation is beyond your control.

Some traditional police methods or misinformation combined with symptoms of a mental illness can cause fear.

“When someone doesn’t have the proper training to respond to a situation that’s sometimes unpredictable sometimes volatile it can become dangerous very quickly,” explained Onukiavage.

Too often officers respond to crisis calls when they feel to be at a disadvantage or placed in a no-win situation.

More than 50 first responders from across NEPA went through mental health crisis response training Monday at Lackawanna college.

Ranging from state police troopers, municipal police officers, firefighters, and ems paramedics to corrections, Pennsylvania Game Commission, and DCNR State Park officers.

All who can benefit from different crisis intervention techniques.

“We’re going to be utilizing some scenarios to familiarize them with the type of incident they may come encounter,” said John Chilleri of Northeastern PA CIT.

A crisis is temporary and time is your ally. First responders learned how to first de-escalate the situation.

Situations Chief Trently says the Archbald Borough Police Department comes across often.

“I am not going to say every day is a de-escalation, but every day we do have some type of crisis or mental health situation that we have to deal with,” explained Chief Trently.

It could be minor or someone may need to be taken for a mental health evaluation.

“But most of the time the officers are keen to look for certain key signs and we try to use our best strategy and do the right thing,” said Trently.

If you come across a situation that is life-threatening, call 911 and ask for someone with mental health experience to respond, like a crisis intervention team.