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$150,000 grant will allow rural law enforcement agencies to take Crisis Intervention Courses


The Madison County Sheriff's Department has become a leader when it comes to mental health and law enforcement. Now, thanks to a new grant, they're extending their reach throughout west Tennessee.

$150,000 from the federal Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) will mean more officers in West Tennessee can take part in the Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training program. A forty-hour training class prepares first responders to better deal with people experiencing a mental health crisis, without the use of force.

Dillon Wooley, Madison County investor of violent crimes explains the importance of the training, “You know, an officer has all these things around his belt. You know, we have guns tasers, batons, flashlights, handcuffs, all these different tools. The number one tool that an officer has is his voice. And if he can use his voice to de-escalate a situation, then that's what he needs to do first."

The federal grant means ten rural law enforcement agencies in Tennessee can take the class for free.

Those agencies are from Chester, Crockett, Dyer, Gibson, Hardeman, Haywood, Henderson, Lake, McNairy and Obion counties.

“A lot of times when you have a rural county, they don't have a large budget to be able to send people to different classes. So, this kind of opens the door for them to,” said Wooley.

“The goal is to train as many officers in west Tennessee as possible to learn how to diffuse something before it happens. And our program is rated among the top anywhere because it actually has saved lives,” said Madison County Sheriff John Mehr.

He has seen the program work in real-life situations, "I mean, we got case after case where somebody was going to commit suicide, had a gun to their head or a knife …but they were able to talk them down jumping off of a bridge. And so that's the whole purpose is to help these people in these crisis situations.”

Violent crime investigator Dillon Wooley believes that crisis intervention training will one day be required for all law enforcement, “I think a lot of our rural counties are wanting to get ahead of the game, as far as the state of Tennessee goes.”

The class covers mental health issues, includes practice scenarios and teaches officers how to deescalate a situation.

Madison County Sheriff’s office, West Tennessee Healthcare, Jackson Police Department and other local agencies are all working together to make the Crisis Intervention Training possible.

The department says all the work is worth it if they help just one person.

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