The Clinton Police Department is the first agency in North Carolina and among the first 10 in the world to complete the International Association of Chiefs of Police’s One Mind Campaign, aimed at improving police response to persons affected by mental illness.
In July 2017, the Clinton Police Department joined about 130 other law enforcement agencies from around the world to make the pledge to the IACP campaign, which began a couple years ago as a way to improve law enforcement’s role and response to mental health.
“As of today, over 340 agencies in the United States and its territories and three outside the U.S. have made the pledge. We are among only 10 in the State of North Carolina who have accepted the challenge,” said Edwards.
And they are now the first to complete it.
The initiative focuses on united local communities, public safety organizations and mental health organizations so that the three become “of one mind.”
To join the campaign, law enforcement agencies must pledge to implement promising practices over a 1-3 year time frame. Among those, they establish partnerships with community mental health organizations, develop a model policy for response to persons affected by mental illness and provide crisis intervention training (CIT) to at least 20 percent of sworn staff.
The campaign was “very much in line” with what the local department has tried to achieve, Edwards noted.
“We were already building strong relations with mental health providers and partners in Clinton and Sampson County, building off partnerships we had developed through the Duplin-Sampson Crisis Collaborative,” he remarked. “The IACP recommended 20 percent sworn staff be CIT certified. We currently have 65 percent.”
The collaborative is made up of law enforcement, mental health professionals, medical service providers and others that have a part in services related to mental health situations, said Edwards. He recalled a presentation at a collaborative meeting back in 2015 when it was noted that Sampson as a whole had less than 10 percent CIT certified personnel.
“That’s how I got familiar with crisis intervention training. That (10 percent) was unacceptable,” said Edwards, giving specific instances of the wide range of police response to mental health situations, whether it stems from drug use or an affliction. “Something like depression can be a true crisis for individuals. Being able to identify it, and get those people to the resources they need, is crucial. CIT offers deescalating skills and ways to deal with citizens with mental health issues.”
Edwards was notified by the IACP on Jan. 25 that the department successfully fulfilled all the requirements of the campaign.
Eschewing any credit, he was quick to note that nothing can be achieved without “strong” local partnerships. He thanked members of the department for embracing the challenge and showing their commitment to their community, as well as the City Council for its leadership.
“I think we were able to fulfill the campaign objectives so quickly because of the partnerships in our community. I must thank our partners because we could not do this without them,” the police chief said, noting special thanks to Eastpointe MCO (managed care organization). “We were able to model policies and practices that we feel provide the highest quality of service for the entire community. By Jan. 11, all of our sworn staff had been trained in Mental Health First Aid.”
Through the Clinton PD Crisis Collaborative, a spin-off of the Duplin-Sampson group, Edwards said he believes everyone is “of one mind.”
The local crisis collaborative endeavor is “very young and still growing,” including Eastpointe, Mobile Crisis, Probation and Parole, Easter Seals, CommWell Health, Clinton City Schools, Sampson County 911 and local magistrates. Sampson Community College has assisted in provide CIT classes and Sheriff Jimmy Thornton has offered support by having his staff attend CIT training.
Being able to do this locally, Edwards noted, means local emergency service personnel are better able to train together and be “of one mind” when serving citizens. The IACP, he noted, has a wealth of resources to assist police executives, not just in this campaign, but many other aspects of police service.
He urged others to make the commitment. It is a lot of work, but it is worth it, he attested.
“I would encourage any law enforcement executive to take the IACP pledge for their agency and their community. I know that every community is different, but I think mental health is an area of concern for us all,” said Edwards. “This campaign unites the community in facing such a tough challenge.”
The effort in Clinton is continuing.
”Once achieved, the work doesn’t stop,” Edwards stated. “Agencies must continue to work in partnership in the community and evaluate how we are doing, adjust as needed or build upon the successes we experience.”
Reach Managing Editor Chris Berendt at 910-249-4616. Follow the paper on twitter @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.