Collaboration of Police and Sheriff Trainings with Ventura Behavioral Health

by Carol Leish, MA

“Ventura Police Department Officers receive mental health training while in Basic Academy under Learning Domain 37, which consists of 15 hours,” according to Emily Graves, Community Outreach Specialist for the City of Ventura/Police. “The Basic Academy training is an introduction for first responders and Crisis Intervention Training. Officers are taught a basic understanding of a variety of mental health disorders, developmental disabilities, and brain injuries. They are exposed to mental health consumers and family members who speak about their experiences with loved ones who suffer from mental illness.”

“The weeklong Crisis Intervention Training (CIT) Academy,” according to John Schipper, Ph.D., Division Chief for Adult Services for Ventura County Behavioral Health (VCBH), “includes training by VCBH staff and members of the community. This training is for all the Ventura County police and sheriff departments, including Ventura, Oxnard, and Port Hueneme Police and Sheriff departments. This training educates officers/deputies on different types of mental illness, de-escalating techniques, and role playing of various scenarios. These trainings have been happening for over 20 years.

“Instructors in the CIT Academy include various presentations. Tri-County Regional Center and mental health staff from the Ventura County Behavioral Health provide these presentations.”

Graves said, “Following academy graduation, Ventura Police Officers attend a more robust 40-hour Crisis Intervention Training Academy where new officers are exposed to over 50 instructors and guest speakers from various law enforcement agencies and community organizations who donate a total of 250 hours to make the class possible. At the CIT Academy, officers get more in-depth mental health knowledge, are taught de-escalation skills, and practice those newly learned techniques in multiple scenarios.”

“Providing a refresher course is essential,” according to Dr. Schipper. “Starting in 2022, the Crisis Intervention Training will be including 8-hour CIT Update Courses every two years for past CIT Academy graduates,” according to Graves.

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