Inside LADA

October 30, 2019: Spotlight: Mental Health Awareness Training Expanded

An ambitious effort to train police officers to recognize and de-escalate incidents involving people in a mental health crisis is expanding to other first responders.

In recent months, district attorney investigators, college police officers, probation personnel and park rangers have joined the ranks of first responders who have completed the two-day training presented by the District Attorney’s Criminal Justice Institute.

The office is in the midst of training firefighters as well.

The free "Mental Health Awareness: Crisis Intervention Tactics for First Responders" class informs both sworn officers and civilian employees on how to resolve such encounters calmly, which helps protect the lives of the individual and the responding personnel.

To date, the District Attorney’s Office has trained nearly 1,700 public safety professionals on recognizing and de-escalating incidents involving individuals in a mental health crisis. That includes the nearly 300 sworn personnel in the office’s Bureau of Investigation.

“We have accomplished a lot since we started in 2016, and we have learned that this kind of training is absolutely in demand,” said Sandy Jo MacArthur, the office’s mental health training coordinator.

Representatives from nearly every police agency in the county have completed the training, the first of its kind in California. The training was certified by the California Commission on Peace Officer Training and Standards (POST) and has received honors from the Los Angeles County Quality and Productivity Commission and the National Association of Counties.

The training is part of District Attorney Jackie Lacey’s efforts to seek a more just, humane and effective criminal justice system for people living with a mental illness.

The class uses role-playing to demonstrate ways to decrease tensions, instructs participants about mental illness symptoms and introduces them to individuals and family members who describe living with mental illness.