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Northland Group Expands Communication About Mental Illness

Northland law enforcement officers were cautioned not to approach people with a mental illness from behind during a recent meeting of Tri-CIT, a new Crisis Intervention Team that focuses on Clay, Platte and Ray counties.

Mental health consumer Elizabeth Wilson shared her own experiences with more than 40 officials during the organization’s third meeting. Growing nationally, CIT is built on partnerships between law enforcement, mental health providers, individuals and families affected by mental illness. Tri-CIT was created this fall to increase that focus in the three-county Northland.

A major component of all CIT is education about how and why someone with a mental illness may experience crisis. At the recent Northland gathering, Wilson explained that because of hallucinations, someone with a mental illness is likely to feel their life is in danger if someone approaches them from behind.

“A lot of people with a mental illness see shadows,” she explained. “If you’re behind them, the first thing they’re going to feel is that someone is trying to kill them.”

Wilson works with Tri-County Mental Health Services and has received several awards for her heroic efforts to communicate the experiences of those with a mental illness. At the Tri-CIT meeting, the mostly command level officers and hospital officials were expanding their perspectives in order to plan for increased training in the Northland.

“The idea is to bring consumers together with hospital staff, law enforcement and others,” explained Peggy Gorenflo, Tri-County Mental Health Liaison and co-chair of Tri-CIT. “It creates a more positive environment for everyone. Officers have a better understanding of what they’re dealing with and, if they do need to call law enforcement, mental health consumers feel more comfortable.”

Gorenflo noted that Wilson has addressed officers before and the results are often dramatic. “She’s amazing to work with,” Gorenflo said. “She’s reducing the stigma and helps officers understand what people with a mental illness are experiencing.”

Another major focus of TriCIT is improving communications between law enforcement and hospitals. Along with police and sheriff’s departments, hospitals face major challenges because of the large number of people with mental illness who seek help from emergency rooms. One of Tri-CIT’s goals is to develop solutions.

“One of our biggest purposes is to build relationships with law enforcements and hospitals,” Gorenflo said. “We need to communicate so we can get the best treatment available for these folks.”

Tri-CIT was formed earlier this year with representatives from virtually all law enforcement agencies in Clay, Platte and Ray counties. Gladstone Detective Anthony Consiglio is the other co-chair. The organization is seeking a third leader from the community. Subcommittees are also being formed, including one to address wellness among officers who often face extreme stress as part of their work.

“We’re off to a great start,” Gorenflo concluded. “We’ve got a lot of work to do, but the response we’ve received is outstanding.”

The recent Tri-CIT meeting was featured on KMBC Channel 9. A video of the presentation can be found on the channel’s website, at http://bit.ly/2hsrBuc.

Content courtesy of Dale Garrison of DGInform.com.

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