- Associated Press - Monday, October 24, 2016

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - There are no police agencies in West Virginia that undergo crisis intervention team training - even though the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has said West Virginia has one of the nation’s highest rates of severe mental illness, a newspaper reports.

CIT training teaches police about signs and symptoms of mental illness, de-escalation techniques and resources in their community, reported the Charleston Gazette-Mail (https://bit.ly/2eyi5o8 ). It also allows police to establish relationships with local health care providers.

The curriculum is available online. Police agencies and mental health care providers who want to use it can do so at no cost. The only expense is officers’ time off the street, and perhaps accommodations for training away from home, or money to pay mental health workers to train.

Only West Virginia, Arkansas and Alabama have no CIT-trained agencies, according to the University of Memphis CIT Center.

As use of force by police is more closely scrutinized nationwide, more agencies have been seeking out the training, said CIT International President Mike Woody.

“Over the last two years, it’s spread like wildfire,” he said.

Chiefs of Huntington, Morgantown and Charleston police departments all said interactions with people in mental health crises are a regular part of the job.

“We deal, I think, way more often than people realize with people with mental illness,” said Belle Police Chief Darrick Cox. “The problem we have in West Virginia is there’s not a lot of places that do have resources for people with those conditions.”

Many police agencies in the state have limited resources, said Morgantown Police Chief Ed Preston. Therefore, many departments incorporate “elements of CIT” into current training.

“If we’re in class we’re not on the road,” he said.

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