As one in five Americans suffer from mental health issues, police share preparedness to respond

Local News

Being a police officer is more than just wearing a badge or responding to crime. It means helping others in a variety of ways.

Officers like Becky Batiz are responsible for job roles people may not think of.

“More than ever do we have to change hats on a daily basis from call to call, not even from day to day,” said Becky Batiz with the Bismarck Police Department.

One of those hats includes having mental illness training.

NAMI [National Alliance on Mental Illness] estimates that one in five Americans suffer from a mental illness,” Batiz said.

The Crisis Intervention Team, or CIT, is a training program for officers.

“It’s a 40-hour training where you are working with community services and mental health providers in training us to respond specifically to mental health crises,” added Batiz.

The Assistant Regional Director of West Central Human Services Center, Lynden Ring, says depression, grief, and handling trauma are some of the common crises first responders see.

“Legislatively we are funded to enhance our crisis services. I will tell you it’s something that happens all day every day,” Ring added.

Welfare checks and drug addiction are two other crises officers respond to.

Batiz said, “In a society where it has become more prevalent and more accepted to seek out mental health services; people are more aware of their surroundings and looking to help individuals.”

Batiz says the CIT program helps law enforcement officers become more understanding and boosts their safety.

“It’s going to decrease injury to officers and to community members. It does not work with everybody, but once you have trained officers you’re being proactive instead of reactive,” she said.

“There are a lot more options and ways to intervene,” added Ring. “Not everybody needs to be in
jail. Behavioral health issues need to be addressed in a calm manner.”

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