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The voices were sometimes murmurs, sometimes whispers, interspersed with yelling and white noise. Many of the words were angry and degrading.

“It’s like having the mean girls in school follow you around all the time,” Mitchell said. “All day, every day.”

Participants’ attentions drifted as they tried to ignore the voices.

These officers will eventually become members of crisis intervention teams. The idea, said Carol Speed of the Greater Oregon Behavioral Health Inc. (GOBHI), is to get a crisis intervention team up and running in Umatilla County.

“This is the starting phase,” she said.

She said CIT training is catching on. Jackson County, for instance, requires every officer to go through the program.

Sgt. Bill Wright of the Umatilla Police Department participated in this week’s CIT training, although he took his original training last fall in Clackamas. Wright said he used his the knowledge almost immediately, dealing with a paranoid schizophrenic who was hearing voices and acting aggressively.

“Before, I might have arrested him for disorderly conduct and taken him to jail,” Wright said. “That wasn’t the proper place for him. He needed help.”

After the role playing, the students took a test and graduated in a ceremony at the Umatilla Fire Hall.

This was a joint project. GOBHI financed and organized the event. McNary Place employees served as actors during the scenarios and Lifeways employees provided critiques. Umatilla and Athena police departments coordinated some sessions and Umatilla County Community Corrections provided a bus for site visits.

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Information from: East Oregonian, http://www.eastoregonian.info