Loudoun County, VA- May is Mental Health Awareness Month and as mental health professionals work to provide support and educate the public, the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office continues to work to increase the number of deputies trained in crisis intervention to help citizens experiencing a behavioral crisis.
In the past seven years, 481 LCSO sworn personnel have received the training, and in December 2017 the agency reached 100% of all uniformed patrol deputies with two or more years on patrol trained in CIT. The LCSO also has 100 % of all dispatchers and call takers in the Emergency Communications Center with a minimum of two years’ experience trained in CIT. The program requires two or more years of experience to participate in the training.
The CIT training helps prepare law enforcement officers, on patrol and in the Adult Detention Center, as well as emergency dispatchers to calmly and effectively communicate with citizens experiencing a behavioral crisis. The training helps de-escalate potentially volatile situations, promotes positive interactions between law enforcement and persons in crisis, and reduces the potential for injuries to deputies and persons suffering from mental illness.
Loudoun County Sheriff Mike Chapman implemented the program in the County upon taking office in 2012 after assessing the frequency of incidents involving mental illness, both in the community and within the Adult Detention Center. “Our collective goal is to preempt and assist people with mental illness before they enter into the criminal justice system,” Sheriff Chapman stated. “Having dispatchers and deputies specially trained in CIT has helped us resolve potentially difficult situations from the very outset of an emergency call,” he added.
In January 2015 Sheriff Chapman expanded the program to include the LCSO Corrections/Courts Services Division. Services were further expanded within the Adult Detention Center to include a Mental Health Wing inside the facility, re-entry resources, and the establishment of a mental health docket to provide treatment instead of incarceration for those individuals whose crimes are primarily associated with mental illness.
The Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office has become a leader in CIT training in the region and has received local, statewide recognition and international certification. As a leader in the field, the LCSO has additionally trained over 130 representatives from the local, state and federal level. Other agencies trained by the LCSO include the Town of Middleburg Police Department; the Town of Purcellville Police Department; the Prince William County Police Department; the Town of Haymarket Police Department; the Warren County Sheriff’s Office; the Winchester City Police Department; Loudoun County Animal Services; Loudoun County Juvenile Detention; Loudoun Juvenile Probation; Probation for Virginia Department of Corrections; CIA; FBI; Loudoun County Department of Family Services; Loudoun County Probation and Parole; and representatives from the private sector.
In March, the 38th class of Crisis Intervention Training (CIT) was held by the LCSO and included 17 representatives from the LCSO, as well as personnel from the Virginia State Police, the Town of Leesburg Police Department, Loudoun Fire and Rescue Combined Services (career and volunteers), and the Loudoun County Public Defender’s Office.
The training includes classroom instruction and role play exercises which enable law enforcement personnel to gain a better understanding of the experience of living with serious mental illnesses and mental disabilities. Participants also conduct site visits to Inova Loudoun Behavioral Services (ILBHS), the Homeless Shelter, and MHSADS offices at the Shenandoah Building. The class is taught by Loudoun certified CIT Sheriff’s Deputies and professionals from MHSADS, the Alexandria Police Department and Sheriff’s Office, and other experts within the field. During the week-long training, students are introduced to medical, social, psychological and legal aspects associated with mental illness.
The collaborative program includes the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office; Loudoun County Mental Health, Substance Abuse & Developmental Health Services (MHSADS); Friends of Loudoun Mental Health; the National Alliance on Mental Illness – Northern Virginia; the Office of the Commonwealth Attorney; the Loudoun County Office of the Public Defender; the Leesburg Police Department; the Purcellville Police Department; the City of Fairfax Police Department; the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority Police Department; Inova Loudoun Hospital; StoneSprings Hospital Center; Virginia Veterans and Family Services; and the Arc of Loudoun. Retired Col. Scot Campbell also joined the effort in order to allow mentally ill persons to receive necessary treatment to become stabilized and work toward recovery. The training includes site visits and partnerships with Ken Falke and the staff from Boulder Crest (healing one veteran at a time) and the Paxton Campus “A Life Like Yours” (ALLY) Advocacy Center.